Parks Canada

Parks Canada

March 17, 2010 15:00 ET

Government of Canada Contributing to International Avalanche Awareness and Education

Single North America Standard for Public Avalanche Warnings

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - March 17, 2010) - The Honourable Jim Prentice, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today unveiled a new North American Avalanche Danger Scale that will help backcountry users make better risk-decisions when entering avalanche terrain. The improved scale improves the clarity and utility of how avalanche danger and risk is communicated to the public.

The project, led by Parks Canada with the participation of the Canadian Avalanche Centre, the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, United State Forest Service and the Colorado Avalanche Information Centre, establishes a single North American standard for an avalanche warning system and provides the first international standard for the use of icons in avalanche warnings.

"This is the most comprehensive and complete avalanche warning system designed to date," said Minister Prentice. "While we will never completely eliminate the risk, this initiative provides backcountry users with another tool to use in conjunction with specific equipment and training to help minimize those risks."

Using information gathered through technical avalanche forecasting analysis, public avalanche bulletins utilize the Avalanche Danger Scale to provide backcountry travelers simple and effective information on current avalanche probability over a wide area. The Avalanche Danger Scale is a five-level warning system that communicates the likelihood of avalanches being triggered, their expected size, how widespread the situation is and recommends actions for backcountry travel.

Improvements to the Danger Scale include the use of graphic icons as well as the incorporation of risk and consequence information into the warnings. The new Avalanche Danger Scale will be implemented across North America starting Winter 2010/11.

"We are a world leader in backcountry avalanche awareness and safety," said Minister Prentice. "Through cooperative efforts such as these to simplify and improve available information on avalanche risk, we can make a difference and work to minimize future avalanche fatalities."

In recent years, Parks Canada has developed a comprehensive leading-edge safety program to ensure national park visitors can use and enjoy the backcountry in a safe manner. Through cooperative initiatives with the Canadian Avalanche Centre and other avalanche industry partners, Parks Canada's improvements to public safety are being felt, not only in the national parks, but also throughout Canada and around the world.

For additional information, please see the accompanying backgrounder at  under Media Room.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of the Environment
    Frederic Baril
    Press Secretary
    Parks Canada
    Greg Kingdon
    Senior Communications Advisor