The public is being advised to stay out of the backcountry after conditions have create a high avalanche hazard in several areas of B.C. including in the popular sledding areas east of Kelowna and throughout the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.
Avalanche Canada issued a Special Public Avalanche Warning for recreational backcountry users late Friday and placed it in effect until the end of the day Monday, the B.C. Family Day holiday.
The warning applies to the Kootenay Boundary region, which includes the Okanagan, the Lizard Range and Flathead, South Rockies, Purcells, South and North Columbia, Cariboos, and North Rockies. For a map of the regions involved, click here.
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According to Avalanche Canada, the snowpack in these areas contains a complex mix of weak layers. The weight of the new snow from nearly three weeks of constant storms has triggered many large avalanches in recent days.
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,” says Mark Bender, a senior avalanche forecaster for Avalanche Canada. “People might be surprised by how large an avalanche can be triggered and how far it could run.”
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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.
“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,” added Bender. “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, visit www.avalanche.ca.
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