Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to exercise caution this weekend. On Sunday, a forecasted storm is pushing the avalanche danger rating to high in the North Columbia’s alpine zone, which includes mountain ranges northeast of Kamloops.
“There’s lots of big avalanches occurring right now and that’s part of why there’s such a heightened rating for the avalanche hazard in that region,” said Josh Smith, avalanche forecaster for Avalanche Canada.
On Jan. 25 there were several large avalanches up to size four that occurred in the Monashees which prompted heightened hazard ratings.
“One of the things that makes the current situation quite tricky is that the weak layer of concern is around 80 centimetres to a metre down beneath the snow surface,” said Smith. “For that reason, it’s a bit more challenging to assess that layer. It requires some pretty advanced skills to be able to say with any confidence whether slopes are safe.”
Another reason for the increasing avalanche danger rating on Sunday is the weight of the new snowfall combined with warming temperatures has potential to trigger avalanches.
“We currently have multiple surface hoar layers in the snowpack so there are some other ones that are even deeper down. So, I would say overall the snowpack currently is certainly more complex,” said Smith.
He said anyone planning to head out into avalanche terrain should have appropriate avalanche skills training and carry an avalanche transceiver, probe and a shovel.
“Our avalanche forecasts, they’re not meant to be used to tell you whether or not a particular mountain or a particular slope is safe to ski,” he said. “They’re simply a starting point. That’s why having that additional training is important, because you can’t actually decide whether or not a particular slope is safe or not just based on the Avalanche Canada forecast.”