Take the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) ratings one step further by superimposing the ratings onto Google Earth. Google Earth Pro is a FREE download. Google Earth can used as a web application or downloaded to your desktop or mobile device. CLICK HERE to download directly from the Google Earth website.
(NOTE: Once installed on your computer there is no reason to log in or create an account. Placemarks, paths, polygons and trips that you save are stored on your computer rather than in a logged in location.)
Choose an ATES map to download and explore on Google Earth
On Avalanche Canada’s Trip Planner webpage click on a green/blue/black area of an ATES map. The left sidebar will pop up. Look to the right of the area name, near the top right of this sidebar. You will notice a download icon (arrow pointing down in a blue cloud). Click on this icon to download that region’s .kmz file.
(Want to learn the difference between .kml and .kmz ? CLICK HERE to check out a short description on the Western Washington University’s website.
Read and accept the Avalanche Canada disclaimer information that pops up on your screen and the .kmz file will download. A link will appear in the bottom left of your browser screen or in your “Downloads” folder. Double click and this action will automatically open the Google Earth software installed on your hard drive and center your screen on the map you have just loaded.
Save Trips and Placemarks in Google Earth under the ‘My Places’ folder
The ATES data file name will appear in the folder tree on the left sidebar of Google Earth under the ‘Temporary Places’ folder. If this is information that you want to keep, you can create a new folder under ‘My Places’ and drag the AvCan ATES folder into the new folder. I tend to name my primary folders for the nearest town and then create subfolders beneath the towns for specific riding areas or trips. NOTE: any content in the ‘Temporary Places’ folder will be erased when the program is closed.
There are many online tutorials to learn how to use Google Earth. Google Earth is a pretty cool tool once you get the hang of it! Well worth investing the time.
Gaia is a user-friendly Smart Phone App for Snowmobilers
Also consider downloading Gaia GPS to your phone. Gaia GPS is a user friendly smart phone tool to track your trips and export them to be opened in Google Earth. It is pretty enlightening to see your backcountry trip superimposed over the ATES terrain layer and see how exposed your riding day was. How did your choices match the avalanche conditions for the day? Anything that you would change to reduce the risks?
Looking to import a KML file to Gaia app? Check out these Gaia articles for pointers.
Check out the intermediate evening class, ZACS1.5 for in-class activities using GAIA and Google Earth and applying the Risk Formula.
What is the Risk Formula? CLICK HERE for a 12 minute TEDx talk about risk and backcountry decision making. Grant Statham, avalanche safety specialist, Parks Canada.