With Owen Lansbury. NSW Director MSC.
1). TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT MSC.
MSC's founding team, led by Simon Murray, saw the need for better backcountry education and information in Australia following the tragic deaths of two snowboarders in Victoria in 2014. Australia's mountain weather and conditions can be as harsh as anywhere in the world and the explosion in people accessing the backcountry meant the likelihood of more disasters would only be increasing. A group of volunteers came together and by 2017 had formed a non-profit organisation focused on reporting backcountry conditions so people could know more before they go.
The past couple of years has seen MSC shift from being purely volunteer-driven to professional observations and forecasting, ensuring that we align with the standards set by the Canadian Avalanche Association. This means that our daily Backcountry Conditions Reports are based on consistent observation standards by our field team and forecast by Craig Sheppard, who has the highest level of CAA qualifications from his 20 year career in Canada before relocating to Australia.
2). WHAT INSPIRES AND MOTIVATES MSC?
The driving motivation is "there's no reason to die in the backcountry". We're all recreational skiers and split boarders ourselves and will chase the biggest lines when the conditions are right, but doing it and coming home safely to our families and friends requires a combination of good education and experience with timely information to make better decisions.
While a lot of Aussies brush off the avalanche risk in Australia, it is there on a fatal scale and people are having close calls and every season. And what do Aussie skiers and split-boarders do every Summer? They go headfirst into massive avalanche terrain in Japan, North America and Europe. If MSC can help form the knowledge about backcountry risks and safer activity and get one person home safely as a result, we're playing our intended role.
3). CAN YOU SHARE AN INSPIRATIONAL STORY, FROM MSC?
Rather than pointing to one big inspiring moment, it's the micro decisions that people are constantly making in the backcountry that really count, with groups of friends communicating their knowledge openly with each other. Something as simple as "The MSC report said watch out for wind loading after yesterday's storm, so let's avoid this rollover and ski that line over there" can be the difference between a great day and a disaster.
4). ACCORDING TO MSC, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?
With the numbers of people accessing the backcountry exploding, the primary factors in keeping people safe are education and information and developing a culture of humble communication. Without oversimplifying it, Canada has invested millions into their avalanche services and sees less than 10 avalanche deaths per year while Europe is still a bit of a free for all and has around 100 deaths per year. Be like Canada.
5). WORDS OF WISDOM
I only ever want to use my avalanche transceiver in training scenarios! Education and information play a massive role in keeping it that way.
Replies given by Owen Landsbury, NSW Director of Mountain Safety Collective.