February 9, 2016
In the last decade, participation in big mountain snowmobiling–and snow biking–has surged. More people are venturing into the high country with high-powered machines and state-of-the-art gear. This makes for good times, no doubt, but also elevated potential of motorized accidents in avalanche terrain. Especially this season in Canada, where over a dozen sledders have died in avalanches. The folks at Avalanche Canada have decided to do something about it. They’ve launched an educational film series called Throttle Decisions to address the unique avalanche education needs of snowmobilers heading into the backcountry.
The inspiration for this series came from tragedy. In the winter of 2008-2009, 26 people died in avalanches in Canada and 19 of them were snowmobilers. “We were well aware of the rising trend in snowmobile accidents over the previous ten years or so,” said Avalanche Canada snowmobile outreach coordinator Brent Strand. “But that winter was really the impetus for this project.” In 2009, Avalanche Canada received a grant from the federal government that funded a three-year project aimed at lowering the number of snowmobiler avalanche deaths. Throttle Decisions was the final component of that project.
Canada’s Search and Rescue Secretariat funded a three-year Mountain Snowmobiler Avalanche Incident Prevention Project through the Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund (SAR NIF). With this financial backing in place, dedicated professionals went to work. “This was a collaborative effort with many people in the snowmobiling community and its success reflects that,” said Strand. “The producer, Francois Desrosiers of FD Productions, did an amazing job of capturing the energy and passion of the sport.”
Based on and incorporated into recreational Canadian AST-1 avalanche courses, the series is divided into eight chapters. They are: Gear, Forecast, Safe Travel, Weather, Snowpack, Terrain, Hazard Evaluation, and Rescue. What unfolds from video to video is not your average snow geek, pencil-pushing affair. This film series captures the passion for mountain riding while illustrating the risks involved through stunning cinematography and down-to-earth interviews. In the midst of the engaging storytelling, the educational component is presented with clarity and minimal fluff.
BCA is proud to support Throttle Decisions and films like it (we supported Sherpa Productions’ Fine Line video, for freeriders, also partially funded by the Canadian Avalanche Foundation). Progression in technique, awareness and equipment will make us all safer in the big mountains. Watch the full Throttle Decisions series on the Avalanche Canada Vimeo channel.