The Warlords of Winter

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British Columbia’s avalanche professionals work like dogs on a shoestring budget to have your back in the backcountry, motivated and united, it seems, by an old skier’s bumper-sticker: The Worst Day of Skiing is Better than the Best Day in the Office.

We are closing at this time,” squawks Eric Dafoe’s radio, as the flashing sweep vehicle passes us. We watch the lights roll onward to the summit, where a backup of semis, tour buses and sled trucks will be clogging Canada’s million-dollar-a-day artery for at least the next hour.

“Rogers Pass Highway: west closure off, east closure on,” comes the reply from the Parks Canada complex at the summit— location of Dafoe’s desk and base for the Glacier National Park ACS (Avalanche Control Section), the biggest mobile control program in North America.

Dafoe works the extended weekend shift as a senior avalanche technician, spending most days on skis but sharing offi ce space with a busy crew of snow-savvy professionals that include forecasters, technicians, safety specialists and visiting grad students. The complex—across Highway One from the pack of stalled travelers, now sipping cafeteria coffee and buying souvenir beaver hats in the Glacier Park Lodge— also houses a Canadian army barrack for the artillery detachment stationed here as part of this avalanche mission. And right now, these fatigued military reservists, on their fi nal day of a six-week rotation, are lined up on a start zone after drinking their own bar—Snowpunchers Lounge— dry the night before. They’re ready to lob a live 105mm howitzer round into one of 144 avalanche paths that threaten this critical national corridor, as soon as the tech holding the target book gives the green light.

His radio crackles.

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ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN SBC SKIER MAGAZINE - TO VIEW THE FULL ARTICLE IN ALL IT'S GLORY, HEAD OVER TO WWW.SBCSKIER.COM | AUTHOR: DAN KOSTRZEWSKI | PHOTO: JORDAN MANLEY | ISSUE 10.3

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