Preparing for all situations; avalanche training recommended

By Tanya Cronin
February 23, 2016 - 4:12pm Updated: February 23, 2016 - 5:44pm

KAMLOOPS — It's one of mother nature's most powerful forces. An avalanche can sweep you away in a matter of a seconds, burying you deep under the snow.

WATCH ABOVE: Avalanche safety tips

"We've got enough snow now to make it fun to get out there, but we've also got some layers that are deeper in the snowpack that are causing some concern," says Iain Stewart-Patterson of TRU Adventure Studies Program.

With a complex snowpack, anyone heading out into the backcountry is being urged to prepare. Iain Stewart-Patterson says looking at the forecast and researching conditions is the number one piece of advice. And carrying a few simple tools is essential to a persons safety, it could be the difference between life and death.

"The modern transceivers are incredibly powerful tools and they'll get you close quickly and the shovel and the probe are needed to actually excavate. The probe makes that contact and shovel, hopefully multiple shovels, multiple people, is used to get the person out," says Stewart-Patterson.

It was a dangerous weekend in BC with two seperate avalanches, one of them deadly. A slide near the popular East Quartz area claimed the life of a snowmobiler from Calgary. A guided group triggered another avalanche in Golden, that injured six people.

"It's probably a good idea to be staying on pretty moderate terrain, low angle slopes, not very big slopes, places where there's not large slopes above you, especially if weather starts to change during a considerable rating. At that point, you could be moving into higher risk situation," says Karl Klassen, Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager, Avalanche Canada.

A persistent weak layer that formed in late January early February made the snowpack unstable. Avalanche Canada experts say while it may look safe, conditions change quickly. 

"We can expect the snowpack to change on a daily basis, sometimes even on an hourly basis if the sun is very strong, after the sun has been on that slope and warming the snow up and perhaps even melting it, you can see significant change in a matter of hours," says Klassen. 

The vast majority of fatal avalanches are triggered by people. While spring like weather might draw more people out into untouched areas, even the most experienced in the backcountry can run into problems.

"Whether it's a beginner or an expert, the decision making is still a complex task and so a beginner might just take it easy, and an expert might push a little further and their exposure to risk might be the same," says Stewart-Patterson.

     

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