Avalanche Canada issues backcountry warning ahead of long weekend

Skiers and snowmobilers are being urged to avoid the backcountry over the next several days due to an elevated avalanche risk.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Avalanche Canada

Skiers and snowmobilers are being urged to avoid the backcountry over the next several days due to an elevated avalanche risk.

Avalanche Canada issued a special public avalanche warning today, Feb. 8, for recreational backcountry users, in effect immediately until the end of the day Monday, Feb. 12.

The warning covers the following areas: Lizard Range and Flathead, South Rockies, Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, South and North Columbia, Cariboos, and North Rockies, according to a media release. For a map of the regions involved click here.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Avalanche Canada

The snowpack in these areas contains a complex mix of weak layers, prompting Avalanche Canada to recommend that users avoid the backcountry unless they have expert-level skills or a professional guide.

The weight of new snow from nearly three weeks of constant storms has triggered many large avalanches in recent days, the alert states. The pattern of avalanche activity is expected to change beginning Friday when the current storm breaks and a shift from widespread naturally triggered avalanches to more sporadic activity is expected.

“The decrease in natural avalanches coupled with improved weather and the long weekend is a classic situation where skiers and snowmobilers venture into more aggressive terrain where they might trigger avalanches themselves or be struck from above,” Mark Bender, a senior avalanche forecaster for Avalanche Canada says in the release. “People might be surprised by how large an avalanche can be triggered and how far it could run.”

Numerous surprises and near misses have occurred in the last couple of weeks and a fatal accident occurred between Blue River and Valemount on Jan. 30, the alert says.

“While danger ratings might come down on the weekend, lingering hazard will exist on most aspects and elevations for several days after the storm breaks,” Bender says. “Travelling safely in the backcountry for the next few days will require expert-level skills to avoid hazardous areas. If you don’t have the training to recognize and avoid avalanche terrain, please avoid the backcountry or hire a professional guide.”

Parks Canada and Kananaskis Country have also released special public avalanche warnings for the weekend.

For current avalanche conditions, go here. 

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