Avalanche warning in effect over the weekend

Avalanche Canada says the weight of the new snow has brought unstable snowpack to a critical point, making it very easy for skiers or snowmobilers to trigger large avalanches.

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Areas effected by a special public avalanche warning over the weekend are shown in orange. Image: Avalanche Canada.

Avalanche Canada and Parks Canada have issued a special public avalanche warning for recreational back country users. The warning is effective immediately until the end of Monday, Jan. 15

The warning applies to the following forecast regions: Lizard Range & Flathead, South Rockies, Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, South & North Columbia, Glacier National Park and the Cariboos.

The snowpack in these areas contains a number of weak layers. Recent snowstorms have buried these layers anywhere from 40 cm to more than a metre deep. The weight of the new snow has brought this unstable snowpack to a critical point, making it very easy for skiers or snowmobilers to trigger large avalanches.

“We have been keeping a close eye on these weak layers and the snow load that has been accumulating on top of them,” said James Floyer, Forecasting Program Supervisor for Avalanche Canada. “It’s a complex situation and we are now at the tipping point. The warmer temperatures forecast for the coming weekend will definitely increase the chances of triggering an avalanche.”

There have been a number of near misses reported over the past week, as well as a fatal avalanche accident north of Fernie on Jan. 8.

“Many of these incidents are occurring in what is generally considered fairly safe terrain, such as relatively low-angle slopes, treed areas and even heavily tracked slopes,” said Floyer. “These conditions require expert-level decision making skills and we recommend backcountry users avoid avalanche terrain. The signs indicating you are exposed to avalanche terrain can be very subtle. If you don’t have the training to recognize them, please avoid the backcountry or hire a professional guide.”

Information on current avalanche conditions can be found here.

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