Monday, 11 February 2013

Kids Outdoor Skills: Age-Appropriate Avalanche Safety Education

February 1 was the tenth anniversary of seven grade 10 students being killed by a massive avalanche near Revelstoke, British Columbia. The group from Calgary's Strathcona-Tweedsmuir private school had been on an annual backcountry ski trip, which was part of the school's respected outdoor education program.

At the time, the tragedy shocked Canada's mountain community. The number of deaths and the age of the victims were unthinkable. Every parent who takes their kids out to the mountains couldn't help but share the sorrow of the victims' parents. The press had a field day second guessing those parents for allowing their kids to participate in such a risky activity, and the adults involved in the trip were roundly criticized.

As tragic as that day was, some good did come out of it. Today, avalanche safety awareness is light years ahead of where it was ten years ago. Parks Canada developed the Avalanche Terrain exposure rating system, which is now used in other countries that include the United States. The simple three-level rating system helps people rate the risk of the area they're venturing into and make better decisions. This alone has probably saved lives. Another much needed initiative that came out of the tragedy was the creation of the Canadian Avalanche Centre. Its website brings together current avalanche danger bulletins of national and provincial parks in western Canada, and is a valuable resource for a wide range of avalanche safety information.

After a recent ski trip to Mt. Norquay with my 8- and 12-year-old sons, during which which we saw avalanche control blasting in progress above the resort, I've spent quite a bit of time on the CAC's website. One of the documents I found provides guidelines for age-appropriate avalanche safety education. It's quick to read, easy to understand, and in 25 pages breaks down avalanche safety into topics that are appropriate for the maturity of kids from kindergarten to grade 12. For example, it notes that while kids in grade 4 and 5 still listen to adults, they're starting to flex their independence at a time that they don't really understand consequences. As a result, the discussion they recommend for kids at this age is different from what they recommend to tell kids in grades 6 and 7, who are more likely to succumb to peer pressure to duck the rope at a resort and are starting to understand that death isn't just something they see in the movies.

I won't try to summarize the entire document in single blog post. I'm not that good and the subject deserves more attention by parents and other adults who lead kids in the winter. Whether your kids are going to the backcountry or a ski resort, you should read this document and start talking about avalanche safety with them. You can download the entire document by clicking this link:


For more information on avalanche safety resources for kids, read:

Kids Outdoor Skills: Avalanche Safety Video for Teens

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...