British Columbia

History of avalanches subject of new online exhibit

A new online exhibit explores how avalanches have been a defining feature of Canada, along with the science of avalanches and what they can teach us about nature.

Museum located in 'Avalanche Alley' shows history of avalanches across Canada

The museum has all of the recorded avalanches in Canada since 1782 on a map and organized by number of fatalities and cause. (

The Revelstoke Museum and Archives is home to a new exhibit called The Land of Thundering Snow, which tells the story of avalanches and how they have affected Canada.

If you want to see the exhibit, you don't need to make a road trip. The exhibit is online.

"[The history of avalanches] really does tie the country together. It isn't just British Columbia … most areas in Canada have experienced avalanches," curator Cathy English told On The Coast's Gloria Macarenko.

English says The Land of Thundering Snow covers the long history of avalanches in Canada, going back to the first recorded one in Labrador back in 1782.

The exhibit looks at the history of avalanches, the earth science behind them, advances in avalanche safety and has a database of the hundreds of recorded avalanches in Canada.

1910 avalanche killed 59

It also looks at what is believed to be Canada's deadliest avalanche, the March 4, 1910 slide which killed 59 CP Rail workers in Rogers Pass, near Revelstoke.

While the exhibit can be accessed anywhere with Internet access, it is perhaps fitting that a museum in Revelstoke is spearheading the project.

Revestoke is, after all, located in "Avalanche Alley," a 40-kilometre stretch along the Trans-Canada Highway with the highest avalanche hazard index in the country.

"They (avalanches) really have shaped the community. I think everyone here is aware of that," English said. "In the winter, some days you can't get out of town. Either east or west."

"There was a couple of cases last winter when the chamber of commerce was calling on local families to take in stranded travellers because they couldn't get out of town and the hotels were full."

English says that most of Canada's avalanches were caused by industrial and transportation activities, like railways. But by the 1960s, the popularity of winter sports made recreation the leading cause of fatal avalanches.

English says that the long history of avalanches in Canada has taught us more than how snow moves or what sets them off. It has also taught us a respect for nature.

"If you see any of the footage on [the exhibit] of the avalanches you can really see the strength behind them … You just can't ever underestimate the power of an avalanche," she said.