Backcountry users warned about avalanche concerns

Special public avalanche warning for most inland regions of B.C.

  • Dec. 28, 2014 6:00 p.m.

Avalanche Canada has issued a special public avalanche warning for most inland regions of British Columbia’s backcountry, including the North Rockies, Cariboos, North Columbia, South Columbia, Kootenay-Boundary, Purcells, South Rockies, Lizard and Flathead, and South Coast Inland regions. This warning applies to recreational backcountry users and is in effect until Dec. 30.

Recent snowfalls coupled with winds and warm temperatures has placed a heavy load on a fragile snowpack, explains Avalanche Canada Public Avalanche Forecaster Joe Lammers.

“The wild swings in weather this season have left a mix of smooth crusts and persistent weak layers in our snowpack. This complex snowpack has the potential to surprise backcountry users with large avalanches even though riding conditions will be good.”

The stormy days leading up to Christmas produced a touchy snowpack that was providing a lot of feedback to users – many natural slides and numerous small avalanches easily triggered by human activity, Lammers explains.

“People were triggering slides even as they approached slopes. This made the dangerous conditions obvious. But that sort of feedback is going to change in the coming days, even though the weak layers are still there buried under 60-100 centimetres of good powder snow.”

Avalanche Canada recommends backcountry users stay on simple, low-angle terrain; avoid large, steep slopes; minimize exposure to overhead hazard; avoid travelling where other users are on slopes above; and re-group in safe zones away from avalanche run-outs until conditions improve.

If you do not have the training or experience to assess avalanche terrain and local conditions, it’s a good idea to recreate in areas where the avalanche risk is professionally managed.

All backcountry users must be equipped with essential avalanche safety equipment. Everyone in the party needs an avalanche transceiver, a probe and a shovel every day. It’s equally important that everyone has avalanche training and has practiced using this equipment. If an avalanche occurs, the rescue is up to you. There is no time to go for help.

For further thoughts on conditions, check out the Forecaster Blog at avalanche.ca.