The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is issuing a special public avalanche warning for most regions of British Columbia including the North Coast Inland, South Coast Inland, Sea to Sky, North Rockies, Cariboos, North Columbia, South Columbia, Purcells, Kootenay-Boundary, Lizard Range, and South Rockies. This warning applies to recreational backcountry users and is in effect from Friday, January 17 to Monday, January 21.
The main concern is sun and warm, possibly record-breaking temperatures that will destabilize a complex and highly variable snowpack leading to surface slides, explains CAC Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen.
In many areas there are also weak layers near the base and at mid-level of the snowpack, Klassen notes. “In addition to smaller surface slides during the coming warm spell, we have the potential for very large natural and human-triggered avalanches failing deep in the snowpack throughout the weekend,” says Klassen. “We’re concerned about ‘blue sky syndrome’ this weekend,” Klassen goes on to say. “It’s common to have a false sense of security in good weather, and this weekend that could lead to underestimating the hazard.”
The CAC recommends recreational backcountry users with little or no avalanche training or experience avoid avalanche terrain, or undertake activities in which avalanche risk is managed by professionals. Experienced backcountry recreationists are urged to travel on simple terrain such as small, low angle, well-supported features with no large, steep slopes or cornices above. When temperatures are warmest and especially if the sun is out, all avalanche terrain should be avoided, including valley bottom runout zones.
Every person in a backcountry party needs an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel and everyone should have some training in recognizing avalanche terrain and applying safe backcountry travel techniques. For more information, check the current avalanche forecast for your area at avalanche.ca/cac and click on the “bulletins” tab. For detailed discussions on this season’s snowpack, check the forecasters’ blog at blogs.avalanche.ca.