After a series of travel advisories and winter storm warnings over the past few days, Avalanche Canada has now issued a public warning for “recreational users of backcountry and front-country avalanche terrain” in both BC and Alberta.
Issued in partnership with Parks Canada and Alberta’s Kananaskis Country, and effective “immediately,” the warning is widespread and applies to the following forecast regions:
- South Rockies
- South Coast Inland
- Kananaskis Country
- Banff-Yoho-Kootenay National Parks
- Lizard Range-Flathead
- Waterton Lakes National Park
The issue, said Avalanche Canada, “is a persistent weak layer within the snowpack of these regions,” and although the nature of the layer differs across the ranges, the effect is the same.
“The storm that blew through Western Canada over the past few days dropped a significant amount of snow, which is now sitting precariously on that weak layer,” the agency said, noting that during the storm, many avalanches on that weak layer ran to historic runouts.
“The danger ratings are going down across the map because naturally running avalanches have slowed down or stopped,” said Avalanche Canada’s Ilya Storm. “However, now many slopes are primed for human-triggered avalanches.”
Distinguishing between slopes that have already slid and those that are the tipping point, she added, “will be very difficult.”
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This, combined with clearing weather during a holiday week, “has us very concerned for backcountry users.”
As such, all backcountry users and anyone recreating in avalanche terrain, including those going outside ski area boundaries, is being advised to always check their regional avalanche forecasts online before heading out. Everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential rescue gear — transceiver, probe and shovel — and the knowledge to use it.
Those heading to the mountains to snowshoe or explore the front country “should also be aware that many popular summer trails are exposed to avalanche terrain,” the agency said. “Plan ahead and research your route to make sure you are avoiding these areas, or hire a certified guide to lead your party.”