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Banff, Alberta, December 2, 2011


Avalanche forecasters hope smartphone-friendly bulletins - featuring less text and more graphics - will help young, tech-savvy backcountry adventurers make better decisions before hitting the slopes.

Working closely with eBranders, Parks Canada and the Canadian Avalanche Centre created a new avalanche safety bulletin format that they will begin using this month.
"The new avalanche bulletin provides easy-to-understand information we want people to use before heading to the mountains", said Grant Statham, Mountain Risk Specialist of Parks Canada. "With eBranders' help, we've made a pretty significant shift from a text based bulletin to one that has much more graphics and colours. We really tried to simplify it so people can see it clearly."
eBranders was tasked with the critically important makeover of the mountain safety icons. These need to convey urgency + simplicity at once, so that any member of the public can understand the avalanche danger at a glance.
Avalanches are the deadliest natural hazard in Canada. On average, 14 people are killed by avalanches in Canada each year.
 "eBranders has been focusing the past several years on occupational safety, and this is our first move towards improving the recreational safety of millions of visitors to Canada's back country," said eBrander's President, Gavan Howe. "To get a chance to work with Grant and all the people of Parks Canada and the Canadian Avalanche Centre was really a privilege for us."
Executive director Ian Tomm of the Canadian Avalanche Centre praised the work of Parks Canada (and eBranders) "Through improved ease of access to avalanche forecast and avalanche danger information, we're hoping people will have more and better information to make better decisions’.
Michelle Rempel, MP for Calgary Centre-North, who unveiled the redesigned bulletins in Calgary on behalf of Environment Minister Peter Kent. "While moving away from a text-based report to a visual one is a bold step, the research tells us that it's the right thing to do," she said.
The new bulletins are being used extensively by Parks Canada who are sharing the technology and safety icons with the Canadian Avalanche Centre, and the governments of Alberta and British Columbia.
The old bulletin — while containing valuable information — was between 400 to 600 words long, and Statham said it was less user-friendly. With this new system, avalanche conditions can be seen at a glance, and received through mobile devices for quick access. The information also ties in with Google maps, so people can find weather stations and click on them for accurate temperatures.
The push to use more web-based technology also has avalanche conditions going up on Facebook and Twitter.
"The idea is if someone is driving out here, they can take a look at the bulletin on their smart phone, and a couple clicks later they can look at the weather at ridge tops," he said. "We know that information, at the right time saves lives."

Some links:
Click here to view printable PDF format

Parks Canada Avalanche Bulletin
Canadian Avalanche Centre< /p>