Fundraising in Valemount for snow sports a success

Dianne St. Jean
Melanie Tonsi all the way from Barrhead, AB was the lucky and happy winner of the 50/50.
Melanie Tonsi all the way from Barrhead, AB was the lucky and happy winner of the 50/50.

Last week was a busy one for Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) manager Curtis Pawliuk, who along with other organizers, representatives from Avalanche Canada, Snowandmud.com, and volunteers hosted two fundraising events in Valemount.

The first was a Backcountry Avalanche Workshop on Thursday, Jan. 17 at the Valemount Secondary School theatre, organized by VARDA and Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA), with presenters from Avalanche Canada.

Called “Off the Line”, the presentation discussed times when adventurous skiers or sledders wander off the zones considered to be safe that result in human-triggered avalanches.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of meters,” said presenter Grant Helgeson, Senior Avalanche Forecaster who is in his 13th season of forecasting. Helgeson shared personal experiences from the backcountry as well as on the job, at one point commenting that, by the time they reach avalanche victims, nearly all of them are fatalities.

Cougar Mountain Lodge owners Kevin and Justina were among the many guests that had a great time, and won some door prizes!
Cougar Mountain Lodge owners Kevin and Justina were among the many guests that had a great time, and won some door prizes!

As an expert, he has learned to spot where the triggers occurred and how easy it can be for someone to make a misjudgment of the landscapes that unfortunately result in accidents.

“You start to see yourself in these accidents,” he commented. 

Helgeson was accompanied by Brent Strand, Snowmobile Outreach Coordinator for Avalanche Canada.

The entry fees for the workshop were by donation, and from that they raised just over $400, which will go to the Al Hodgson Memorial Fund through the Canadian Avalanche Foundation.

At the event local Girl Guides held a bake sale from which they raised about $200.

Then, Saturday, January 19 the MountainMania fundraising dinner was held at the Valemount Community Hall, with the room filled to capacity. There was also a silent auction and 50/50. In all about $6500 was raised. It was a lot of fun, and successful.

All proceeds from the fundraiser go toward the Allen Creek shelter project in memory of Tony Parisi.

Pawliuk said that he would like to thank Avalanche Canada, Snowandmud.com, all the supporters and volunteers, as well as everyone who attended.

Backcountry Avalanche workshop. Left to right: Darryl Polyk and Patricia Thoni (YORA), Grant Helgeson (Avalanche Canada), Mac Cochrane (VARDA President), Brent Strand (Avalanche Canada), Curtis Pawliuk (VARDA Manager).
Backcountry Avalanche workshop. Left to right: Darryl Polyk and Patricia Thoni (YORA), Grant Helgeson (Avalanche Canada), Mac Cochrane (VARDA President), Brent Strand (Avalanche Canada), Curtis Pawliuk (VARDA Manager).
Dianne St. Jean photos