Avalanche expertise will prevail

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the letter by Rod Gibbons published in The Pioneer on November 14th. I am a resident of Invermere, a self-employed ski and mountain guide who, at 66 years of age, still guides powder skiers and ski mountaineers, six to seven days a week all winter long. My private clients come mainly from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Sweden, the USA and Canada. Some have done two trips a year with me for over 25 years now.

I have done extensive ski guiding with helicopters and without them, in Canada and in the Alps. My accomplishments as the only Canadian-born mountain guide with over 30 plus years of ski and mountain guiding in the Alps and my off-piste powder skiing adventures are well-documented. I have also guided powder skiers for CMH Heli-skiing in the Bugaboos, in the Cariboos and, during my last winter in 1981/82, as assistant manager at CMH Panorama Heli-skiing, long before it was called RK Heli-ski.

I believe thatthe statements made in the media by the RK Heli-ski employees should be seen as part of the campaign of intimidation that started with the lawsuit against the Jumbo Glacier Resort project following the Environmental Certificate of 2004. One should ask why, if the resort village were in an avalanche path, this was not brought up at that time a perfect opportunity lost.

The truth is that the RK representatives are equivocating between the location of the day lodge for the skiers, and the resort village itself. The day lodge is close to an avalanche path (but not in an existing avalanche path), but the risk is vastly exaggerated because one can easily see that the risk could be monitored or mitigated by skiing on the slopes, and with controlled avalanche release systems. The resort village itself happens to be not only outside the potential zone of influence of avalanches, but also where RK Heli-Ski has testified it does most of the skiing and pick ups because it is the most protected area of the entire upper Jumbo Creek Valley.

Regarding the difficulty of successful avalanche monitoring and protection as if it were a very uncertain art, I very much disagree. I wish to add that I also understand that Karl Ernst, an expert in avalanche danger mitigation in B.C., is among those who do not agree with Rod Gibbons. Avalanche prevention and mitigation is successfully practised at most ski areas in North America and in Europe, and it will be easy to do it successfully at Jumbo Glacier Resort where necessary, as in the other ski areas.

In my 30 plus years of guiding throughout the entire Alps, I have seen many alpine villages located in far more inhospitable avalanche terrain than that witnessed in Jumbo Creek. Just Google villages like Andermatt, Davos, Saas Fee, St. Christoph am Arlberg, Zuers and St. Anton am Arlberg, and Val dIsere in France, and the list goes on and on. These villages have survived for over hundreds of years with elementary mitigation measures and, as soon as they had explosives, they started to release threatening avalanches before they became harmful to their villages. Finally, let me note that Cliff Hotel at Snowbird in Utah was designed and is successfully operated at the bottom of a big avalanche path. There are innumerable examples of successful avalanche monitoring, prevention and mitigation where necessary, and a just a little more information will counter this disappointing intimidation campaign.


John W. Hogg

Member in good standing of the

Association of Swiss Mountain Guides


Just Posted

RCMP Report

Some of the more notable files from Columbia Valley RCMP week of August 12-18th

Rossland council urges minister to kill Jumbo Glacier Resort project

Mayor writes letter panning ski resort on environmental, legal, and economic grounds

Legend of the book bike

Book fairy hands out books to lucky recipients who spot her

Summer Snack Program helps local kids in need of a good lunch

Summit Youth Centre is giving tasty, nutritious lunches and snacks to Columbia Valley kids.

Bounding into the great outdoors

Playwest Mountain Experience takes hikers into the wilderness.

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Most Read