This map shows the new avalanche bulletin regions being issued by the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

Avalanche centre announces new bulletins

CAC has created new bulletins that will cover more regions in time for the 2011-12 winter.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre has increased the number of forecast regions and introduced a new avalanche bulletin format to mark the start of another winter.

“These two developments go hand-in-hand,” stated CAC executive director Ian Tomm in a press release. “With help from the efficiencies of our new bulletin system, we will split some of our larger regions into smaller ones. As a result, the CAC will provide daily avalanche information for 12 regions, up from seven in the past.”

The changes were announced Wednesday, after the CAC issued its first round of bulletins of the winter the previous evening.

For example, the North Columbia region, which used to stretch from the Trans-Canada Highway to Highway 16, has now been broken down into two regions – the Cariboo range and the northern Selkirks & Monashees.

The smaller forecasting regions will allow for greater accuracy in avalanche bulletins and permit more precise travel advice to backcountry users, said Tomm.

The smaller regions were made possible by new technology, said Karl Klassen, the lead forecaster for the CAC.

“We’ve got new software and new systems that allow a forecaster to work much more efficiently,” he said. “Whereas it used to be a big job to get two or three forecasts a day out for a single forecaster, now they can do three, four – even five for an experienced forecaster.”

The avalanche bulletins have also seen a substantial change. They are now broken down into three pages. The front page provides mostly graphical information indicating the danger rating, where wind slabs and storm slabs can be found, what the chance of an avalanche is, and the expected size of avalanches. It also provides basic travel and terrain advice.

The second page provides forecast details, with a summary of recent avalanche activity, a description of the snow pack and the weather forecast.

The third page, which is not yet active, will provide a technical analysis of avalanche conditions.

“We’re still doing pretty much what we did in the past, we’re just producing it in several different layers,” said Klassen. “The essential information is upfront, the more detailed information is in the background and then the really technical stuff is a little deeper. We think that’s going to meet our users needs much better.”

An example of a new avalanche bulletin being produced by the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

The CAC issued its first bulletins of the season Tuesday evening, following a significant avalanche cycle last weekend. Avalanches were reported throughout British Columbia and a snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche near Prince George on Sunday.

“The season started off with a bang here so we just want people to make sure they’re thinking winter,” said Klassen. “It’s full on winter up there and we’ve already had our first avalanche cycle of the season so people need to make sure they have the gear when they go out.”

Meanwhile, the winter permit system is now in effect for Glacier National Park. All slopes in the park that face the Trans-Canada Highway and CP Rail line are either prohibited or restricted to the public.

People that held a winter permit last year can renew on-line, while those that didn’t can receive one at the winter permit orientation session at the Unite Church on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. Details are available at parkscanada.gc.ca/skirogerspass.