Honorary Members

The CAA would like to recognize the following individuals who have been granted Honourary Member status for their outstanding contributions to the Canadian avalanche industry. 

Peter Schaerer
Peter grew up in Switzerland where, after graduating in civil engineering in 1950, he worked by designing and locating highways. Because of a love for ski touring in mountains he developed a professional interest in avalanches and snow removal on roads. In 1957 he moved to Canada for employment with the National Research Council of Canada. His first task was to design the protection against avalanches at the planned highway at Rogers Pass in British Columbia. After completing successfully the Rogers Pass task he had a three-year stint of research of snow and ice removal on roads in Ottawa. 

Because a demand for expertise on snow avalanches was expected, the National Research Council moved him to North Vancouver with his family of three children in 1967. In Western Canada, mainly at Rogers Pass, he studied the motion and size of avalanches and snow properties and assisted governments and industries with the planning and design of avalanche control. In addition he began to organize and instruct courses for field staff of highways, skiing operations, mines and railways that were exposed to avalanches. The courses became the industry avalanche courses of the Canadian Avalanche Association. When professional staff for safety in operations expressed a need for an exchange of information and to be recognized, Peter initiated the formation of the CAA in 1981 and was its first president.

The National Research Council terminated the avalanche program in 1991 and Peter retired from employment. He continued work with Chris Stethem &Associates as a part-time consultant for engineered avalanche protection. His leadership for developing avalanche safety in Canada was recognized by receiving the Order of Canada in 2000.

Chris Stethem
Chris Stethem is a retired avalanche protection consultant living in Canmore, Alberta. A graduate in Geography from Queen’s University, Chris spent the 1970s overseeing the avalanche program at Whistler, BC and completing research projects for the National Research Council of Canada and Environment Canada. This work included compilation of the first two volumes of Avalanche Accidents in Canada (Stethem and Schaerer 1979, 1980), From 1979 to 2011 Chris worked as a consultant in planning, operations and training for avalanche programs in the Americas and overseas. 

Chris was also a member of the founding Board of Directors for the Canadian Avalanche Association in 1981 and President of the CAA from 1988-1992, During this time, the Canadian Avalanche Centre in Revelstoke was formed to provide Avalanche Training Programs, the InfoEx and the Public Avalanche Bulletin. In 1998 Chris and a group of like-minded members of the community formed the Canadian Avalanche Foundation (now Avalanche Canada Foundation), a registered charity that raises funds to support public avalanche bulletins, education and research. Chris sat as President of the CAF for 12 years.


Clair Israelson 
In 1971, Parks Canada needed to implement avalanche safety programs for railways, highways and ski areas, selecting young folks who liked to ski. “I fit their bill: green, keen, and oblivious to how much I didn’t know,” says Clair Israelson. Fostered by many good people around him, soon he was in charge of avalanche control and mountain rescue operations in the Lake Louise district of Banff National Park.

By the early 1980s Clair was teaching and examining training courses for the CAA and ACMG, working with and learning from some of the best people in the business. Part time guiding helped broaden his perspective and experience. Meeting and collaborating with leading practitioners and researchers inside and outside Canada provided context for the work they were doing. Representing the avalanche community to resolve issues with governments and regulatory bodies provided insight into the opaque world of public policy and governance in the public interest. 

Following an early retirement from Parks Canada in 1998, Clair worked as a mountain safety consultant. In 2001, he was hired as Executive Director for the CAA. The tragic winter of 2003 set the stage for what he calls the most challenging and rewarding work of his career, working with the CAA Board of Directors, governments, private sector sponsors and individual supporters to create the Canadian Avalanche Centre (now Avalanche Canada) and to initiate programming to prevent avalanche accidents across Canada. Concurrently, CAA membership and services grew to better serve avalanche professionals in Canada. In the mid 2000s, the Board’s vision of being a world leader in avalanche safety programs and services was achieved, verified by a survey conducted under the auspices of the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR). Clair left the employ of the CAA in 2009.

For the last five years, Clair has enjoyed getting back to his mountain roots managing guiding operations for Northern Escape Heli-Skiing, working on research projects with Dr. Pascal Haegeli, and mentoring some of the next generation of avalanche workers.

For the past thirty-five years the CAA has been the campfire that avalanche workers and researchers in Canada have gathered around to share their stories and learn from each other. “I am forever grateful for the sustenance this campfire has given me throughout my career, and to be awarded Honorary Membership in such a remarkable organization,” notes Clair.  




Jack Benetto

Jack Bennetto began his snow avalanche career working in the avalanche program in Rogers Pass in the mid 70s, followed with guiding helicopter skiing with CMH and Alpine Guides, New Zealand in the early 80s. Jack started working in the BC highways avalanche programs in 1984, with the development of the program for the Coquihalla highway followed by the management and growth of the provincial highway avalanche programs until 2002. Jack has been a proud member of the CAA since its inception early in the 80s and was a founding member and Vice President of the Canadian Avalanche Foundation until retiring in the fall of 2015. Jack was the Chair of ISSW 2002 and a current member of the board. Accomplishments have been the development of the CAA Continuing Professional Development program, the Avalanche Mapping courses for Professionals and the introduction and adoption of the 5 level scale when he was the CAA President in the mid 90s. In the early 2000 Jack took his career in another direction, focusing primarily on the management of the transportation network in the Rocky Mountain District, responsible for all highway related responsibilities in South Eastern British Columbia.


Walter Schleiss 

Coming soon.

Fred Schleiss

Born in Austria in 1929, Fred immigrated to Canada in 1955 after completing education in construction and engineering, and became Jasper National Park’s first alpine specialist in 1956. When Rogers Pass was chosen as the Trans-Canada Highway route in the late 1950s, Fred moved to Glacier and became an avalanche forecaster in the newly-formed avalanche control section. The highway was opened in 1962, and in 1965 Fred became the chief avalanche forecaster for the largest mobile avalanche control program in the world in Rogers Pass.


Fred retired in 1991 after a 26-year career that saw 10 million travellers take the Rogers Pass highway without a single avalanche fatality or serious injury. He trained more than 80 avalanche safety professionals during his tenure. Many observational tests and standards established by Fred and his brother Walter are still in use today. Fred was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the CAA in 2007. 

Alan Dennis
Coming soon.

Peter Kimmel
Peter Kimmel has been involved in the avalanche industry for over 40 years and is a founding member of the CAA. He started his career with Parks Canada’s Snow Research Avalanche Warning Section, where he worked as an Assistant Observer and then Observer. During those years, he taught many avalanche courses and helped train new Assistant Observers. 

Peter has spent the last 33 years with his own company Incline Research, doing avalanche control for private industry and Crown corporations. He has spent the last fifteen years performing cutblock avalanche assessments as well, and his company has also worked with the film industry, providing avalanche footage and conducting avalanche control for the BBC and Disney, among others. 

Peter has taught lots of CAA Avalanche Operations Level 1 courses, as well as numerous AST recreational course in the Revelstoke and surrounding areas. Peter has been a meaningful mentor to many people in the industry, sharing his widespread industry knowledge and guiding professionals in their development. 


Colani Bezzola

Coming soon.


Willi Pfisterer

Coming soon.


Mike Boissonneault

Coming soon.


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