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Posted: January 17, 2017

Avalanche risk rising in region

The potential for increased avalanche risk is rising with the temperatures in B.C. and the East Kootenay.

Avalanche Canada is warning backcountry users about dangerous conditions brewing in shallow snowpack areas.

“An unusually weak snowpack has developed in a number of areas of B.C. in recent weeks,” Avalanche Canada reports, pointing out the Rockies, Columbias and northwest of the province has “unusual local conditions.”

Avalanche Canada recommends careful planning and cautious terrain selection for recreational mountain users in and around these areas at this time.

“Because this condition is localized, regional avalanche forecasts and reports may not reflect the conditions in some of these areas. Experienced local riders are being very cautious. Check out this post and the followup to hear what local riders are thinking in areas around Valemount. The December 30 fatal avalanche in the northern Monashees was likely a result of these conditions,” Avalanche Canada reported.

“More snow, warming temperatures, or additional wind will make this situation worse. When access improves, more riders will be tempted to hit slopes that have seen little use and are less compacted than usual so far this winter. This combination of changing weather and improved access will increase risk of triggering and being caught in avalanches in the coming days and weeks.”

Conservative terrain selection, proper equipment and good group management are the key to safe travel as this conditions unfolds, Avalanche Canada advises.

This blog discusses the situation in greater detail and is recommended reading before heading into areas where the conditions described above exist.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The map (click to enlarge) shows a broad zone indicating where the conditions discussed above are known or suspected to exist. It includes:

All of the South Rockies

Northeastern areas of the Flathead (Corbin)

The extreme northeastern tip of the Monashees (areas around Clemina Creek)

Low snow areas of the Cariboos (Areas around Allan Creek, eastern and northern Cariboo areas including Sugarbowl, western Cariboos areas near Quesnel/Barkerville)

All parts of the North Rockies.

Areas around Hope Creek north of Golden.

The Dogtooth range near Golden

The southern Purcells around St. Mary’s and Hellroaring Creek.

Low snow areas in the northwest, particularly around Smithers, the Telkwa, Kispiox and around Ningunsaw.

Any area where the snowpack depth at sheltered treeline elevations measures approximately 1.5 m (5 feet) or less and where air temperatures have been consistently cold through the winter.

This map is a rough outline and should not be taken literally or used for navigation. It’s intended to provide a general idea of where more careful research for trip planning, extra caution, a conservative approach, and gathering local data to augment this and other sources of information is recommended.

Click here to view an interactive online map.

Mainroad PlowMainroad East Kootenay is also warning highway users about the increased risk of avalanches.

“With these warmer temperatures we can also expect the avalanche risk to rise in the area especially in the Purcell and Columbia mountain range.  So if you are travelling around the province you can expect the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to be conducting Highway Avalanche Control,” Mainroad stated in a road and weather update Jan. 17.

“We are expecting minus single digits temperatures to continue with a few periods of flurries or light snow the rest of the week. 
Finally, we expect the area’s snow accumulations to began melting with this weather so we’d like to remind residents and business owners to do their part to ensure that drainage areas near their home or business are cleared of ice and snow and debris, this includes driveway culverts,” Mainroad advised.

Please check for the latest avalanche control updates.


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