Historically I dont send letters to the editor, but sometimes you got to do what you got to do. Back when I was in school, I was taught, when addressing an audience, you must first establish credibility, then deliver your message and finally draw a conclusion. I will try to do that. For those who dont know me, last year was my 28th year of guiding for RK Heli-Ski. I am a fully Certified International Mountain Guide, Professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association and started my profession in the avalanche sector back in 1972. Because of my job for the last 28 winters, I can state with some margin of confidence that I have likely spent more time in the Jumbo Valley dealing with avalanches than any other individual in the world. I dont say this to brag; I say this as fact… 28 years, 75 to 100 plus days every year you do the math. Also, as many know, I have from the beginning been against the proposed Jumbo Resort, but this letter is not about my personal feelings about this proposal.
In a recent Pioneer article, (November 7th issue) and on recent TV coverage, it was pointed out that RK Heli-Ski had submitted a report about the avalanche exposure of the footprint of the proposed building in Jumbo. It may come as a surprise to some, but I was not the author of that report, however I want to make clear that report was factual and I support this well-done report. This recent article reads that Mr. Costello states that they have mapping done by the best experts and that the day lodge is not in one of these zones. On some TV coverage, I heard Minister Polak say it was her understanding that the lodge was not in an avalanche zone. As a professional avalanche worker who has spent most of his life focused on avalanches and, in particular, that terrain in and around Jumbo Valley, I am in disbelief over these comments when the report shows photos of avalanches in motion, which we at RK have taken through the years, that clearly show the energy of this avalanche at the building site. I have the utmost respect for the avalanche experts Mr. Costello refers to, but there is no reference to the declaimers attached to this type of report like: the best information we have at the time or something to that effect. News flash: there is a need for this new information.
Mr. Costello talks of controlling the potential avalanches by the latest control techniques. Really? Give your head a shake. Control measures can only be so effective. In that terrain, you need good weather access to get the helicopter where you need to deliver the explosive that is not always timely.
The Rogers Pass has one if not the most elaborate control programs in the world, but they still to this day get surprised and the highway every year closes because they cant actually CONTROL the avalanches.
In the last five years in particular, I have witnessed the expansion of many avalanche paths in the Jumbo and Toby valleys, as the RK report states, destroying many acres of mature forest. Is this the same mature forest Mr. Costello is referring to? Avalanche paths are in a constant state of flux and recent expansion of the paths above/near the new footing have been at rapid speed. I am wondering if Mr. Costello and/or Minister Polak and her advisors really think the consulting work JGR did on avalanches back in 1996 still is the same today? I can tell you it is not! The recently destroyed forest cover does not lie.
In conclusion, there is a difference between what a layman might think or believes to be true and what the avalanche professionals who work every day in Jumbo are stating in this report. Minister Polak, I sure hope your staff is really looking into the facts and not just telling you what you want to hear.
IFMGA / ACMG Mountain Guide
CAA Avalanche Professional