Winter often goes hand in hand with exhilarating ski days, hot chocolate in the snow and cozy evenings by the fire. But it also comes with seasonal hazards like avalanches – thousands of avalanches occur in Canada each year, many of them in the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta. They can be triggered by wind, rain, warming temperatures, snow and earthquakes, but also by skiers, snowmobiles, hikers, vibrations from machinery or even construction.

To ensure the safety of our workers, infrastructure and communities, Trans Mountain regularly monitors and patrols our right-of-way in all seasons and regularly updates our Emergency Response Plans in response to changing seasons and risks. When undertaking work in areas that pose an avalanche hazard, all Trans Mountain workers must have current avalanche training, wear an avalanche transceiver and have immediate access to shovels and probes. They must also complete an Avalanche Risk Assessment Request Form at least 48 hours prior to work in the field. An Avalanche Technician will review this form and based on the avalanche hazard and the requested work plan, may either approve, adjust or postpone the work.

A few safety tips to be avalanche-ready

Being prepared is the best safety plan, and that’s true whether it’s our workers in the field or anyone heading out to enjoy winter weather. Keep these tips in mind if you’re driving, skiing, snowmobiling or hiking in avalanche country this winter, including on the Trans Mountain right-of-way:

  • If you’re planning to travel in backcountry, take an avalanche safety course
  • When travelling in backcountry, always go in a group. Ensure you have an experienced group leader. Always stay within view of your group.
  • When driving, observe and follow "Avalanche Area-Do Not Stop” signs
  • Drive carefully in avalanche areas. Avalanches may reach the road without warning.
  • Obey road closures. When the avalanche hazard is high, control work by explosives may be carried out at any time.
  • If an avalanche blocks the highway, remain in your vehicle with seat belts on. Wait for assistance. It’s easier to find a car in the snow than to find a person. Drive to a safe area if possible.
  • Avoid driving through even small avalanches

If despite applying preventive measures, you inadvertently become caught in an avalanche:

  • Push machinery, equipment or heavy objects away from you to avoid injury
  • Grab onto anything solid (trees, rocks, etc.) to avoid being swept away
  • Keep your mouth closed and your teeth clenched
  • If you start moving downward with the avalanche, stay on the surface using a swimming motion
  • Try to move yourself to the side of the avalanche

Should an avalanche occur while you’re in a vehicle, here are a few steps to ensure your safety:

  • Remain in the vehicle
  • Shut off engine and headlights
  • Leave flashers and radio on