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Avalanche danger risk rated ‘considerable’ for Southern Interior

Storm slab and deep persistent slab avalanches are likely in Kootenay region
Avalanche Canada advises outdoor adventurers to avoid steep elevation, in light of recent weather conditions, which are ideal for avalanches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Fluctuating spring-like temperatures are leading to an increased likelihood of avalanche-like incidents in the Cranbrook area and the greater Kootenay region.

Avalanche Canada reported Wednesday that danger was considerable for backcountry recreationalists living around Cranbrook, with small avalanches expected in many areas and large avalanches in isolated locations. The danger level was rated high at the beginning of the week on Monday, after high winds disturbed a fresh blanket of snow.

Judson Wright, ski guide at Kootenay Backcountry Guides, said it is common for conditions to change on a daily basis, particularly after a snow fall, when top layers of snow are looser and more likely to shift. Backcountry adventurers, he added, can mitigate risk associated with unpredictable conditions by being cautious and following measures outlined by Avalanche Canada’s terrain and travel bulletin.

“The best thing is to be conservative. Be conservative in your terrain choices, especially during periods of change in the snowpack,” he said.


He added that recreationalists should avoid shallow rocky areas where the snow is thin.

According to Avalanche Canada forecaster Lynnea Baker, recreationalists should keep to low angle terrain and avoid areas with high elevation. They should also have avalanche safety training and consider taking a guide.

Avalanche Skills Training One, for beginners, and Avalanche Skills Training Two, for intermediate to advanced backcountry missions, help students understand avalanche forecasts, plan trips, and perform rescues.

Baker said storm slab and deep persistent slab avalanches are most likely with the current weather and snow conditions. Higher wind levels and winter storms lead to a loose layer on top of the snow, which, if disturbed, can heighten the risk of a storm slab avalanche. Lower layers of snow can be loosened continuously by freeze-thaw weather cycles and cause deep persistent slab avalanches to form.

Deep persistent slab avalanches are difficult to see and are difficult to predict by testing. Although the chances of triggering one is low, the damage is great if it does happen.

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About the Author: Gillian Francis

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