Avalanche Canada to issue warning as threat increases

By Tanya Cronin
January 10, 2018 - 5:00pm

KAMLOOPS — A change in the weather coupled with a complex snowpack has increased the avalanche threat in this province, and the conditions are said to be 'just right' to trigger a human-caused slide.

The danger is rated considerable, but Avalanche Canada says warmer temperatures and heavy snowfall could escalate the risk, and a special warning is expected to be issued. Even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts can run into trouble in the backcountry.

The force is so powerful that it only takes a matter of seconds for an avalanche to come roaring down, sweeping everything in its path under a deep layer of snow.

"It's now at that tipping point, it's overloaded and it's ready to break loose, so really all it needs now is people to be out there in the wrong place," says Iain Stewart-Patterson, TRU Adventure Studies Program.

Warmer temperatures and recent heavy snowfall have combined to create the perfect avalanche conditions. Anyone heading out into the backcountry is being urged to prepare.

Iain Stewart-Patterson says looking at the forecast and researching conditions is crucial, and while carrying a few simple tools is essential, education is far more important.

"A tranceiver, a shovel and probe and really those are tools that are like your seatbelt, they may help you if you have a crash but the goal should be not to have a crash and really the goal should be careful terrain management."

The complex snowpack has already contributed to a dangerous weak in BC's outdoors. A 36-year old man died in an avalanche near Fernie on Monday, and just yesterday a skier was rescued after being swept several hundred metres in a slide on North Vancouver's Mount Seymour Mountain.

"We're dealing with a really tricky snowpack, we have several buried weak layers and a couple of these layers are buried quite deeply and they're becoming increasingly reactive and we're seeing more avalanche activity and more human-triggered avalanche activity, and we're expecting that to be maintained and maybe even increasing as the weekend approaches," says Colin Garrity, Avalanche Canada forecaster.

The avalanche danger rating is considerable, and experts warn that's about to become even more hazardous. But unlike years past - there is no safe terrain, a persistent weak layer below the tree-line is just as active as higher elevations.

"At this time we are advising people to seek professional level guidance in the backcountry, or if they don't have that level of professional expertise and experience, to simply stay away from backcountry terrain or maybe consider a day at the ski hill instead," says Garrity.

Sunshine this weekend could make the backcountry quite appetizing. But skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoers and just about everyone is reminded it takes very little to trigger a deadly slide.

"It's really important for folks to be cognizant of what they know about managing an avalanche hazard and being conservative, because things are ready to go and it's going to be blue sky, lots of nice snow and it's going to be really tempting," says Stewart-Patterson.





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