REVELSTOKE, B.C. — Avalanche Canada has issued a Special Public Avalanche Warning for recreational backcountry users, which in effect until the end of the day on Monday, February 12.
The warning applies to all of the Northern Rockies, as well as the Cariboos, South & North Columbia ranges, the Purcells, Lizard Range & Flathead, and the South Rockies. Officials say the snowpack in these areas contains a complex mix of weak layers. In the Northern Rockies, between 50 and 100 centimetres of snow has fallen in the past week alone. Underneath that layer of new snow is a widespread weak layer of snow from January that has many unknowns about its properties, as exhibited in an Instagram video.
A widespread weak layer buried in January is 50-100 cm below the surface. There’s lots of unknowns about this layer, but it could produce large avalanches, so we’re avoiding riding on or below the big terrain features right now. We just posted a new North Rockies Report, link in bio (There’s also a SPAW in place for the North Rockies.) Luckily the riding is incredible in the trees, which is what we’ll be looking for tomorrow . Please feel free to repost and tag us! . SPAW = Special Public Avalanche Warning . . @avalanchecanada #avcannorthrockies #teamavcan #knowsnow #persistentslab #specialpublicavalanchewarning
The weight of the new snow from nearly three weeks of constant storms has triggered many large avalanches in recent days. The pattern of avalanche activity is expected to change beginning Friday when the current storm breaks and a shift from widespread naturally triggered avalanches to more sporadic activity is expected.
“The decrease in natural avalanches coupled with improved weather and the long weekend is a classic situation where skiers and snowmobilers venture into more aggressive terrain where they might trigger avalanches themselves or be struck from above,” said senior Avalanche Canada forecaster Mark Bender. “People might be surprised by how large an avalanche can be triggered and how far it could run.”
A fatal accident occurred between Blue River and Valemount on January 30th, while numerous surprises and near-misses have also occurred in the last couple of weeks.
“While danger ratings might come down on the weekend, lingering hazard will exist on most aspects and elevations for several days after the storm breaks,” added Bender. “Travelling safely in the backcountry for the next few days will require expert-level skills to avoid hazardous areas. If you don’t have the training to recognize and avoid avalanche terrain, please avoid the backcountry or hire a professional guide.”
Parks Canada and Kananaskis Country have also released special public avalanche warnings for the weekend. Click here to learn more.