Posted by: Feet Banks
“If every snowflake is unique that means there are an infinite number of possibilities as to how snow bonds together,” says Wayne Flann, longtime Whistler local and ski patroller. “Snow is almost a living thing, it’s pretty amazing.”
It can also be pretty dangerous. As more and more skiers, boarders and snowmobilers head into the Whistler backcountry there is a growing need for proper avalanche awareness, education and training. To do his part for the local backcountry community Wayne started the Wayne Flann Avalanche Blog in 2012.
“I like the idea of educating people,” Wayne says, “as well as constantly learning myself.” Built and maintained in his spare time, Wayne’s Blog features local weather and snowpack information, snow science and risk articles, and reports on avalanches both here at home and around the world. Wayne believes there is no such thing as too much information. “The more I learn the less I seem to know about it,” he says. “Understanding all the aspects is so complex.”
And that’s coming from someone with a lifetime of mountain experience. Wayne arrived in Whistler in 1979 and has worked in the mountains ever since- as an instructor, paramedic, film shoot safety guide, avalanche forecaster, ski patroller, and now blogger.
Although he does most of the heavy lifting keeping the blog running and updated, Wayne has 20-30 different contributors who send in hands-on knowledge and accounts of various avalanche events and snow conditions.
Wayne Flann at work.
“It’s a great community,” he says. “Crowd sourcing is something we don’t really do enough here for avalanche work. It’s good to have public information for the general public but I’d also like to see more local professionals contributing, from heli-ski and backcountry guides for example.”
As backcountry travel becomes more popular the need for avalanche education becomes greater than ever. “Last week I personally saw 40 people going out into the backcountry with no avalanche rescue gear," Wayne says, “including two guys I know personally. And then at 2:30 PM that day a size 2 slide ripped right in the same area.”
Proper education and training need to be paired with the right attitude. “People need to learn about backcountry etiquette,” Wayne says. “If someone is in trouble out there you HAVE to help them.” And you need to have the skills and training to do so. There are many organizations that offer avalanche courses throughout the ski season and guided backcountry tours are a great way to safely get a feel for what is out there.
The Whistler backcountry is incredible and beautiful place but no one should venture beyond the rope without knowledge, humility and respect. The mountains are in charge and Mother Nature calls the shots.
Wayne Flann enjoying the fruits of his labour in the Whistler Backcountry
Check out Wayne’s Blog and feel free to use the “Donate” button on the side to support local knowledge and help spread the word about avalanche safety. We’re all out there together!