It’s beginning to look a lot like winter, and the fresh blanket of snow in town must mean fresh snow for backcountry skiing and snowmobiling.
With great adrenaline comes great danger, and the Yukon Avalanche Association is hosting two film nights that straddle both.
On Friday night they are showing an extreme snowmobiling film at the Roadhouse called Volume 8, by 509 Films, and on Saturday night they are showing Into the Mind, by Sherpas Cinema, at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.
Both films were released this year, and both show athletes flying off mountains covered in pristine powder in the middle of nowhere. The snowmobilers in Volume 8 are in western Canada and the United States, and the skiers in Into the Mind are in Alaska, Alberta, Bolivia, British Columbia, Nepal, and Switzerland.
Sean Cox, event coordinator for the Yukon Avalanche Association, has seen the trailers for the films, but is holding off until Nov. 29 and 30 to watch them in full.
“They’re both pretty visually appealing movies that would only be done justice on a big screen,” he says.
Into the Mind has a particular appeal for Cox.
“It’s pretty breathtaking,” he says. “It gives you the sense that it’s not going to be your typical ski movie with action shot after action shot. There’s a broader message of the kind of commitment it takes to ski the steepest and the deepest of mountains.”
The film nights, in addition to celebrating backcountry winter sports, are being used to launch the association’s new tools for assessing avalanche risk in the Yukon.
The association has been developing these maps, roadside signs, and a web-based trip-planning tool for the past couple of years.
“We’re not saying, ‘Don’t go here, don’t go there,’ rather, this is to give people the tools to make the decisions as to what risk they want to take when they’re recreating in the back country,” Cox says. “Every single one of us are passionate skiers or snowmobilers, and some of us do both. These are the sports we love and breathe, being out in the mountains and the snow.”
The tools are called the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) mapping project. The association identified the Haines Pass and the White Pass as the most heavily-used backcountry areas in the Yukon, and hired an avalanche professional from British Columbia to travel these areas by ground and helicopter to rate the terrain for avalanche danger.
Now, adventurers can pick up a map that rates the terrain in these vicinities.
“The maps are available at various snowmobile and ski retailers in town, gas stations, and visitor centres – and they can be downloaded from our website,” Cox says.
The roadside signs are located at the parking areas along the Haines Road and the South Klondike Highway to Skagway. These signs, like the maps, give a danger rating of the terrain.
The idea is to use the rating in conjunction with weather and avalanche forecasting.
“What has been rated is the actual terrain – and that is static – it doesn’t change,” Cox says. “Regardless of the weather or the snow, this is to give people an idea of the actual risk at a certain place – and the conditions are above and beyond that. So one part is the map, and the other is the forecast with the danger rating.”
In December, the Canadian Avalanche Centre will begin forecasting avalanche danger, and the Yukon association will have a link to these forecasts on their site.
The third component to the ATES project is the web-based trip-planning tool.
“This is essentially the same information as the brochures (maps) with terrain ratings, overlaid on top of Google maps,” Cox says.
The Yukon Avalanche Association presents the films Volume 8 on Friday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at The Roadhouse, and Into the Mind, on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.
For more information go to www.YukonAvalanche.ca or to the association’s Facebook page.