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Avalanches: The debate over backcountry skiing

The side of a mountain suddenly collapses, transforming a pristine white blanket into a raging wall of destruction and death. An avalanche used to be considered an unpredictable, and rarely survivable, force of nature. But with each tragedy experts have learned more about why avalanches happen, how their impact can be minimized and what people can do to survive their terrible force.

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When Beth Stewart's son Trevor perished in an avalanche, she took comfort in knowing that her son was well-trained and well-equipped. There was simply nothing more that he could've done. "Avalanches just happen," Stewart says in this CBC Radio discussion. "The mountain just shrugs her shoulders and down they come." But Vancouver East MP Libby Davies counters that in light of the tragic deaths of seven students who were struck by an avalanche in Revelstoke, B.C., Canada should impose a temporary moratorium on backcountry skiing altogether. 
• Beth Stewart is the founder of Parents of Lost Skiers, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping parents who have lost a child in a skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing or snowmobiling accident. The organization also seeks to educate young people about avalanche safety.
• Parks Canada later agreed to review its policies and Davies subsequently dropped her call for a moratorium.

• In early 2004, Parks Canada changed the rules so youth groups must obtain a federal permit and hire a certified mountain guide to travel through the mountain parks during avalanche season, October 15 to May 31.
• On Feb. 19, 2004, Minister of the Environment David Anderson announced a $525,000 contribution over three years to the establishment of a National Avalanche Centre, an agency which will coordinate safety programs and awareness campaigns across the country.
Medium: Radio
Program: The Current
Broadcast Date: Feb. 4, 2003
Guest(s): Libby Davies, Gord Kettle, Beth Stewart
Host: Anna Maria Tremonti
Duration: 16:24
Photo: Ski area boundary sign © robcocquyt. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.

Last updated: March 15, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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