With more than three dozen winter weather warnings in effect across BC today, avalanche forecasters are advising people to steer clear of high-risk avalanche terrain on Vancouver”s North Shore mountains and across the South Coast until things settle down and stabilize.
In a bulletin, Avalanche Canada said the danger rating has been upgraded to “extreme” for treeline and alpine areas — and that fresh storm slabs formed on Wednesday night will get “soaked” with heavy rain today.
“The rising then dropping freezing level makes it hard to predict the rain/snow mix and the exact properties of the storm slabs throughout the day, but regardless, all the ingredients for dangerous avalanche conditions are there,” they added.
In addition, the new snow has fallen on what forecasters describe as a widespread — but rather vulnerable and shifting — crust that extends at least to 1500 metres in elevation.
“At the highest elevations in the north of the region near Squamish, there could be a weak layer of feathery surface hoar roughly 50 cm below the new snow,” they added.
Heavy rain and/or snow is expected to continue right through Thursday, with the freezing level peaking around 1800 m in the morning then dropping to 1,300 m throughout the day.
Local ski hills affected
Vancouver’s local ski hills are also taking various safety precautions, due to the weather and avalanche forecast.
At North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain, all ski and snowboard lessons have been postponed today and chalet facilities and downhill area are on standby until further notice.
At Mount Seymour, two lifts are on standby and two others (one of which is on bunny hill) are still open.
Over at West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain, two lifts have been put on high-wind standby, while another three lifts remain in operation.
Avalanche Canada said it expects another 30 to 50 cm of snow at higher elevations on Friday, with freezing level steady around 1200 m, moderate to strong wind from the southwest.
Section of Highway 1 closed
The avalanche risk has also closed the Trans-Canada Highway between Revelstoke and Golden, until approximately 8 pm this evening, according to officials.
The winter storm has already brought more than 40 cm of snowfall to the region, with 20 to 30 more cm expected throughout the day, and as much as 50 cm forecasted for Rogers Pass.
During the closure, avalanche control work is taking place in four different locations along the section of highway to “ensure people’s safety once the highway is reopened,” according to a government release.