Avi death, Green Day and festival

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An experienced backcountry skier died last week on Haddo Peak near Lake Louise. He was skiing with a friend when an avalanche on an easterly aspect swept him over cliffs to his death. He is friend narrowly escaped the same fate. Many Canadian skiers, hikers and snowmobilers have died in avalanches this year. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, at least 36 people have died in US avalanches this year, and over 50 in Europe.

The factors needed for an avalanche to occur are a slope, snowpack and a trigger. The Rockies are known for having a snowpack with deep weaker layers, which makes for an incredibly unstable surface. Avalanche science and forecasting is difficult, but luckily, we have some of the best in the field in western Canada. Unfortunately, despite all of the information available, there’s no way to 100 per cent predict when and where an avalanche will occur. Many of those who’ve died in avalanches this year were mountain guides, Olympic competitors and were young. Complacency and ego can often play a factor in decision making, so be extra careful out there this spring.

The first avalanche I saw in the Rockies was a serac collapsing down the north face of Mount Temple in the late 1990s. It blanketed the wall in a thundering cloud of snow that would’ve killed anything in its path. It was the first of countless avalanches that I’ve since seen in Canada’s mountains.


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I saw it on a road trip in early July on my way to the west coast. The trip was memorable for a number of reasons, but none more than getting to watch the band Green Day play a free show in Canmore. They were doing a tour of Alberta and B.C., and had just played in Edmonton and Calgary. They took a day to visit the mountains before continuing to Vancouver’s Edge Fest.

My then-girlfriend and I weren’t aware that Green Day would be playing at the Canmore Hotel, nobody was. It was an impromptu unplugged set by Billie Joe and Mike Dirnt. We were walking by and recognized one of their songs, so poked our heads in expecting a cover band. Green Day was a big part of my High School days, so I quickly recognized the famous musician’s neon hair at first sight. We ordered a beer from the angular bar top, the Hotel has since been renovated, and sat a few tables away from the well-used raised stage.

On the way out, I saw a poster for the Canmore Folk Festival, which started in 1978. We planned to be back in town that summer for the multi-day music event. Since then, I’ve seen hundreds of bands play at the festival, including my talented brother Kyle. The festival is cancelled this year, but Canmore remains home to countless talented musicians who’ll be there to perform and entertain once we’re allowed to gather again. Until then, be safe in the mountains.

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