Avalanche Control

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort - Golden, British Columbia - Feb 2007

On location filming an episode of Angry Planet featuring avalanches and avalanche control.

Since Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is such a huge ski area with steep slopes and many visitors, keeping the avalanche danger to a minimum is a high priority. Each morning, the ski patrol has meetings to discuss the day's strategy and figure out if bombing is required to bring down small avalanches before they threaten to turn into dangerous ones.

Snow profiles are frequently dug in the snowpack to determine the quality of the snow. The danger level is elevated whenever there is a weak, unstable layer detected in the snow. These weak layers can fail, causing a gigantic slab of snow to come crashing down the mountainside.
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Here, the ski patrol members are gathering up hand charges. These explosives are carried out onto to slopes by ski, then they're thrown into the avalanche start zones. 2 minutes later, the explosions disturb the snow and cause it to slide down the mountain. All this has to be done in the early morning, before the mountain is opened to the public.
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Angry Planet producer, Peter Rowe shown here with a dislocated finger. He sank into deep snow at the top of the gondola. It sure looks like it hurts, doesn't it? Luckily, they have a good hospital in the nearby town of Golden.
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A few examples of the dramatic scenery that is found out in the Rockies. Steep, snow covered mountains. Perfect avalanche terrain.
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The Avalauncher. This device uses compressed nitrogen gas to propel an explosive projectile onto the slopes. It's a fixed installation that fires on slopes that are commonly bombed. I refer to the projectiles as "Baghdad Lawn-Darts"
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Lava (Left) and Weiser (Right). Two avalanche rescue dogs in training. The ski patrol buried me in a snow cave and let Lava try to sniff me out. It took here mere seconds to do it. It's incredible how keen their sense of smell is. The tough part is getting to dogs onto an avalanche disaster scene fast enough. Most buried victims have only a few minutes to survive and there has only ever been one live recovery in Canada by a rescue dog, they usually only recover bodies.
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Ski patrol members set up a probe line during an exercise. If you get caught in an avalanche without wearing a radio beacon then the only way they'll be able to find you is by poking in the snow. Your chances of survival would be slim at best.