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Managing spring avalanche hazards

 | May 3, 2012

Epic winter conditions marched into April in most of B.C.’s mountain ranges. A northwest flow of cool unstable air provided fresh light snow and cool temps into the Easter weekend. Large avalanches continued to occur through March, both naturally and skier triggered, on the persistent Feb. 12 surface hoar layer and March 27 suncrust layer.

Warm temperatures and sunny skies hastened spring conditions to the Monashees by Easter Monday giving good opportunities for sledding and ski traverses in the high alpine and glaciated terrain.

With an often predictable spring pattern of freezing at night and melting during the day avalanche hazard can be managed and anticipated with good planning. Utilizing firm frozen snow in the morning can provide great travelling on skis or snowmobiles. Keep in mind that sun affect will rapidly change the snowpack stability—be alert to avoid cornices and slopes overhead. The heat of the day will often trigger deep instabilities, such as the March 27 suncrust layer, and produce large natural avalanches to valley bottom. Consider the affect of daytime warming when planning your route home in the afternoon, or consider staying put if you’re committed to a ski traverse through large terrain.

Be extra cautious when there’s no overnight freeze—this often initiates widespread natural avalanches capable of running full path and creating new paths. Spring also brings more snowfall in the mountains, often creating storm slabs over new suncrusts.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre provides some great info on trip planning and managing avalanche hazard.

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Get the info you need from the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

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