Avalanche training for snowmobilers reduces injuries, deaths

The message of a new video series launched by the Canadian Avalanche Centre produced by snowmobilers says fellow riders can avoid serious injury, or even death, with proper training and planning.

Number of fatalities dropping since 2008

Experts are reminding snowmobilers that they avoid serious injury with the proper training. 2:02

The message of a new video series launched by the Canadian Avalanche Centre produced by snowmobilers says fellow riders can avoid serious injury, or even death, with proper training and planning.

"Really targeting the people who are not sure about what they should know or what equipment they should carry, and this will give them a good idea that they need to get the training," said Gilles Valade of the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

The message seems to be getting through, as the number of avalanche-related fatalities involving snowmobiles is falling.

The turning point, Valade said, was the deaths of eight snowmobilers near Sparwood, B.C,. five years ago.

"That was the wake-up call and everybody stepped up to the plate, and that's why we're seeing good results," he said.

Since 2008, the number of fatalities has been dropping. There were just two avalanche-related fatalities involving snowmobiles in Alberta and B.C in the past two years.

Randy Zacaruk, a longtime snowmobile safety instructor, says the culture of the sport is changing. (CBC)

Randy Zacaruk, a longtime snowmobile safety instructor, appears in the new video series.

"We've strived to get knowledge," he said, adding that the culture of the sport is changing.

"Now they realize it's cool to get training. We're getting smarter, we're able to go more places, do more things."

Zacaruk trains hundreds of snowmobilers each year and stresses the importance of carrying the right gear, such as transmitters, shovels and beacons.

He has noticed riders are paying better attention to the weather and avalanche forecasts.

"They are starting to recognize the fact that, you know, 'Let's stay home this weekend because we can go out and enjoy next weekend and many weekends more,'" said Zacaruk. 

"Before, they didn't recognize the dangers and how the weather played a role and were going out and taking chances."

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