Strathcona-Tweedsmuir remembers those lost in 2003 avalanche
February 1, 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of an avalanche that killed seven students from a Calgary area school.
In 2003, a group of teens from Strathcona-Tweedsmuir were on a back country field trip when disaster struck.
The teens were part of a group of fourteen Grade 10 students and three adults that were swept up by a huge snow slide in the Connaught Creek Valley, just west of Rogers Pass.
The tragic snow slide didn't stop the school from offering adventure travel but it did change the way adventure travel is offered.
In a quiet aspen forest behind Strathcona-Tweedsmuir school, a memorial to seven teens killed in an avalanche a decade ago while on an outdoor adventure.
Donna Brosko's son Scott was one of the teens killed.
After Scott’s death, Donna along with other parents pushed for changes to the way schools, Parks Canada, and anyone travelling in to the back country prepares for the risk.
“The law in the country has changed,” says Donna Brosko. “It says no longer can you take a custodial group into the back country without a certified mountain guide and all the back country trails are now rated.”
An independent report into the avalanche concluded the school didn't adequately warn parents of the risk, and concentrated more on adventure than education. The report also found both the school and the parents to be complacent about the potential for danger.
The report had worldwide implications. At the time, Bruce Hendricks taught outdoor education in Australia. Hendrick's now in charge of the program at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir.
“I guess it's just re-emphasized what a lot of us have already known,” says Bruce Hendricks, the director of outdoor education for Strathcona-Tweedsmuir. “Duty of care, not just from a legal sense, but from a moral or ethical sense of caring for the welfare of these students that are with you.”
The four day back country trip was an annual tradition at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir school, a tradition that had lasted for 27 years. In the wake of the tragedy, many wondered if the trip should continue.
The school ultimately decided to continue with the trip, a choice they do not regret.
“They (the students) learn a lot about themselves,” says Bill Jones the head of the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir school. “Who they are, what they’re made of, and how they face challenges, both physical and emotional.”
“There's a lot of different ways it helps prepare kids.”
On February 1, the school is holding a private memorial to mark the tenth anniversary of the avalanche and to honour the memories of the seven students who died in it.