Today’s Poll

Petition gains ground in attempt to ‘revise’ SD8 decision on avalanche courses

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
December 15th, 2022

An online petition protesting a school district move to take youth avalanche education courses out of avalanche terrain now has more than 1800 signatures.

There have been 1850 signatures on the petition to ask School District No. 8 board of trustees to revise their field trip administrative procedure (AP 440.1) that currently prohibits teachers and students to travel and learn in the backcountry.

Several programs across SD8 were affected by the decision, including the Adventure, Tourism, Leadership and Safety course (ATLAS) at L.V. Rogers Secondary School in Nelson, the Kaslo Outdoor Adventures program, the YETI Outdoor Program in Creston and the Valhalla Wilderness Program in Slocan.

In late November the board made the change to prevent students and teachers from exploring and learning in avalanche terrain, effectively limiting winter activities in the programs to roped-in areas of ski resorts.

It was noted in the school district agenda regarding the decision that several groups — including the B.C. Schools Protection Program and WorkSafeBC — were brought in to offer their views on the risks involved in the programs in avalanche country.

But, according to the online poll, those consultants were not enough.

“Should we not be looking to the experts in the avalanche safety industry to set policy, instead of people who have little to no experience with outdoor education and avalanche safety?” the poll preamble asked.

The need to continue to offer the courses in the areas where avalanches occur is paramount, the authors of the poll contended.

“The students that enroll in these programs are people who want to, and will, undoubtedly, spend time in the backcountry, and who will, throughout their lifetimes, be exposed to certain levels of risk in doing so. To minimize those risks, it is crucial to spend time gaining skills and experience in the backcountry, navigating real avalanche terrain under the guidance of trained and certified professionals and educators.”

The group is hoping to gain school district approval to allow students to explore and develop skills in “low-risk avalanche terrain.”

• The Facebook group “Community support for youth avalanche education in SD8” can be found here.

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