Practice makes perfect as Marmot’s avalanche rescue dog team put on a show for skiers on Saturday for Avalanche Awareness Day. | C.Dyer photo Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marmot Basin celebrated Jasper in January with a special day of avalanche awareness programming with some of the highlights including rescue dogs and an explosives demonstration. 

The energetic displays, complete with smiling rescue victims, only served to draw in the audiences to a better appreciation of a very serious topic.

Avalanches, after all, are among the larger natural hazards within Canada, says Kerry MacDonald, director of safety operations on the ski hill.

There have been a few avalanche fatalities in the Rocky Mountains already in 2023, with one of the latest taking place not very far from Marmot.

“Improving understanding and education… is pretty key on our goal checklist,” MacDonald said.

Marmot hosted an avalanche information booth with transceiver training sessions, rescue dog demonstrations, and a general discussion on avalanches. That discussion ended with a bang as the explosives portion of the programming took place at the top of Paradise around 1 p.m.

“We want to really show folks the destructive power of avalanches and why they should be respected, and why when we say something is closed, there is reason behind that,” MacDonald said.

“It’s for their safety, the safety of other guests, as well as the safety of my staff. I might have to send my staff in after these folks if they make a poor decision to go onto closed terrain. Finishing off with the explosive demo and folks being able to see what an avalanche can do and the consequences of being caught in one, I think, is also a worthwhile educational portion of that day.”

The activities were a joint program with Avalanche Canada, whose website offers further public education tools including reporting of recent avalanches. Parks Canada representatives participated as well.

Avalanche education takes many forms, MacDonald said, adding that Avalanche Canada often sends out public school representatives to go into different classrooms and help educate children.

You’re never too old or too young to learn about the danger and how to stay safe, he said.

“It is nice as an avalanche community if we do more together to get the messaging out there as far as safety around avalanches in avalanche terrain.”

Marmot’s website offers its own detailed page of safety information that can be found by visiting

Three speakers from Parks Canada’s Visitor Safety Team and Marmot Basin’s Avalanche Safety Ops will have presentations at an upcoming event called Avalanche Awareness Story Night on Feb. 13.

The doors open at 6 p.m. for the event at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum with the public talk, with the Q-and-A running from 7 to 9 p.m.

Admission is free but people are encouraged to RSVP by calling the museum at 780-852-3013 or by sending an email to Donations will be accepted and proceeds will go to our local Jasper Crisis Services.

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 25, 2023 at 12:00

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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