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HomeNewsWeak snow pack layers still pose a danger in BC's backcountry: Avalanche...

Weak snow pack layers still pose a danger in BC’s backcountry: Avalanche Canada

Avalanche Canada says we are not out of the woods yet when it comes to the unstable snowpack in BC.

So far this season, 12 people have died from avalanche-related activity.

Senior Forecaster, Simon Horton told Vista Radio that while the number of deaths isn’t record-breaking, it’s still above the seasonal average of 10.

“There have been worse years in recent memory. This includes the 2016 winter, 2009, and 2003 but still, we are quite concerned about the increased number of fatalities this year.”

There were 14 avalanche-related fatalities in BC in the winter of 2015-2016.

Horton added the majority of deaths and incidents have occurred in BC’s Interior region.

“Many of them have been involved in the same avalanche problem, which has been a weak layer of snow that’s been at the bottom of the snowpack across most of the interior this season.”

On March 1st, the Columbia Valley RCMP was notified of a slide that occurred in the area of Panorama.

In total, ten people were involved during the time of the incident, three of the skiers died while four others were injured. It had been determined multiple people had been heli-skiing in the area and were caught up in the avalanche.

This followed another fatal slide where two people passed away following an incident in Golden last month.

Both victims were among a group of five people who set off a slide outside the boundary of the ski area where the snowpack in the province’s Interior has been unstable for much of the winter season.

In January, two off-duty police officers from Nelson passed away after they were caught in an avalanche in southeastern B-C.

Nelson Police said the two were on snowmobiles when they were struck by the slide near the community of Kaslo.

During that same month, two people passed away while another sustained injuries following an incident near Mount McRae within the Alkolkolex tenure southeast of Revelstoke.

Horton stated while the current weather pattern has resulted in a low to moderate danger rating for the Northern Rockies region – there is a concern the steep, weak layers of snow in the backcountry will be problematic again, once the temperatures rise.

“With this current weather pattern, the avalanche danger has been relatively low. We have seen a decrease in reactivity in these weak layers that have been quite a problem but we are concerned that they will become a problem again once we see temperatures get above freezing in the alpine.”

“Generally, it’s safer in the morning when it’s cold than when it heats up and the avalanche danger increases – it’s more important about getting out of avalanche terrain during the heat of the day,” added Horton.

The Northern Rockies region has not been exempt from avalanche fatalities during the.

In February, two skiers were caught on an east-facing slope on Potato Peak, approximately three hours west of Williams Lake, and later passed away.

Avalanche Canada noted the skiers had accessed the area using snowmobiles but were skiing at the time of the accident.

The avalanche ran on a layer of facets approximately 30-40 centimeters up from the base of the snowpack.

In January, a Grande Prairie man died following an avalanche south of Valemount.

The incident, which was three hours southeast of Prince George was first reported by Avalanche Canada in the Oasis riding area, on a north-northeast aspect at 2100 metres.

Avalanche Canada’s forecasting season ends on April 25th but notes avalanches can occur at any time of the year, even in the summer.

 

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