The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is issuing a special public avalanche warning for the South Coast, North Columbias, South Columbias and Kootenay-Boundary forecast regions. On the south coast this includes the mountainous areas between Lillooet and Vancouver; in the Interior it includes the mountains areas around Valemount south to the US border. The warning is in effect from January 7 to January 10 inclusive.
The warning comes after a high-intensity storm dumped up to a metre of snow in the southern Interior. While the hazard has been high during the storm, it’s the clearing period after that has the forecasters at the CAC concerned.
“Recreational backcountry users are going to see this coming weekend as the first good riding of the winter,” says CAC Operations Manager John Kelly. “There’s going to be blue skies and fresh snow, and we know people will want to hit the mountains hard. But there is a highly reactive weak layer in the snowpack that is just ripe for human triggering, and we expect it will persist for some time after the end of the storm.”
In many locations there is a stacked set of weak layers within the snowpack, including a significant weakness near the ground, which increases the likelihood of deep, large avalanches. “If you trigger that top weak layer right now, there is a good chance the avalanche will step down to the lower weak layers,” explains Kelly. “That can add up quickly to a deadly situation.”
The CAC is especially targeting out-of-bounds skiers and boarders, as well as any backcountry users without extensive avalanche training and experience. “We want to remind parents at ski resorts to always be aware of where their kids are,” adds Kelly. “It may look tempting outside the boundaries this weekend but it’s not worth the risk.”
Every member of a backcountry party needs to be equipped with a shovel, probe and transceiver. The CAC strongly recommends that all backcountry users take an avalanche awareness course. Snowpack stability changes constantly throughout the winter; backcountry users need to check the avalanche bulletin regularly to keep informed of conditions in their area. Avalanche bulletins are can be found at www.avalanche.ca.