What is your life worth? How about $80?

Trent Ernst
Hey, Mr Snowmobiler. How much is that sled worth? You know, that 2012 Polaris Indy and it’s 600 cc Cleanfire engine? 
Next question? How much is your safety worth in relation to that? One tenth? One Hundredth?
Summit Avalanche Consulting, out of Grande Prairie, along with the British Columbia government, will be offering Tumbler Ridge sledders (along with skiers and snowmobilers) the chance to take a full two day Avalanche Skills training (AST 1) course for only $80. 
Summitt Avalanche consulting is owned by Ryan Shelly. When we reached him by email, Shelly was just finishing off a two week stint as avalanche technician for Chatter Creek Heliskiing out of Golden BC. It’s just another day in the life of the certified Avalanche Instructor and explorer, who has spent much of his life exploring the world of winter.
“I grew up in the outdoors and always loved winter,” says Shelly. “My family was raised on a ski hill essentially, our winters as kids, was dedicated to skiing. I have fond memories of those days. I dabbled in extreme skiing and competed in some events in the Rockies but I realized that being an extreme skier was not exactly what I wanted to accomplish.” Instead, Shelly says he just wanted to explore and play in the mountains safely, and to help others do the same. “It became obvious that my career path was that of a professional mountain guide,” says Shelly. “I was lucky enough to live in the mountains and have friends who are professional mountain guides. Through their knowledge I was able to gain valuable skills and develop my future career objective of becoming a guide and working in the avalanche industry.”

As a guide, Shelly says, he would hear stories of avalanches, and witnessed a number himself. He says most deaths that happen due to avalanche incidents are entirely preventable. “That is why I chose to teach avalanche skills training courses in an effort to prevent future incidents from occurring. At the end of the day, the more you know the safer you are when talking in terms of avalanche hazard and risks.”   
Shelly is planning on offering the course in Tumbler Ridge mid-February, though the date hasn’t been set yet. There are only eight spots available, and Shelly expects them to fill up fast, as the course typically costs $300. “If someone is interested, they need to contact me on my website and do it quickly, we have filled all the spots in neighboring communities already.”
While Shelly says they are targeting snowmobilers because Tumbler Ridge is such a great snowmobile destination, it is not exclusively for snowmobilers.  “My courses are offered to snowmobilers, skiers, snowboarders and even snowshoers,” he says. “The course applies to anyone who travels in potential avalanche terrain in winter. Courses are tailored to either snowmobilers or skiers/boarders/snowshoers.. Generally, our snowmobile based courses take place in Tumbler, the Pine Pass and the Kakwa Wildland area. I use Powder King Resort in order to conduct ski and snowboard-based courses.”
Shelly says that if you are going to travel in the mountains in the winter, you need to understand avalanche safety. “The fact of the matter is, avalanches can happen to anyone.”