Fernie SAR in operation. Fernie Free Press file photo

Avalanche Canada issues warning for BC Interior

Conditions are ripe to trigger large, dangerous avalanches, says forecaster

Avalanche Canada has issued a special public avalanche warning for much of the BC Interior mountain regions that will remain in effect over the weekend.

The warning covers mountainous regions used for backcountry recreation in the Lizard Range & Flathead, South Rockies, Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, South & North Columbia, Glacier National Park and the Cariboos.

According to Avalanche Canada, recent snowstorms have buried weak layers anywhere from 40 cm to more than a metre deep. The weight of new snow has brought the unstable snowpack to a critical point, with conditions ripe for skiers or snowmobilers to trigger large avalanches.

READ: “You have about 15 minutes to live”

“We have been keeping a close eye on these weak layers and the snow load that has been accumulating on top of them,” explains James Floyer, Forecasting Program Supervisor for Avalanche Canada. “It’s a complex situation and we are now at the tipping point. The warmer temperatures forecast for the coming weekend will definitely increase the chances of triggering an avalanche.”

There has been a lot of avalanche activity in the southeast corner of BC over the last few days.

A fatal avalanche in the Lizard Range near Fernie claimed the life of a 36-year-old Alberta man on Monday, Jan. 8. It was triggered by a group of backcountry skiers.

READ: Skier killed in avalanche near Fernie

On the same day, Fernie Search and Rescue also rescued a missing timber biker in the Tent Mountain Area close to the Alberta border. The 43-year-old Albertan was found by helicopter partially buried under his bike in a small avalanche.

“Many of these incidents are occurring in what is generally considered fairly safe terrain, such as relatively low-angle slopes, treed areas and even heavily tracked slopes,” adds Floyer. “These conditions require expert-level decision making skills and we recommend backcountry users avoid avalanche terrain. The signs indicating you are exposed to avalanche terrain can be very subtle. If you don’t have the training to recognize them, please avoid the backcountry or hire a professional guide.”

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