Increased Avalanche Risk in the Northern Rockies
Prince George, B.C. – Be careful if you plan on heading out into the back country this weekend.
“Unusual local conditions” have prompted a warning for the Northern Rockies region from Avalanche Canada.
“We have had such a cold winter and that has generated a fundamentally weak snowpack,” says forecasting and program supervisor James Floyer.
“And that snowpack feels quite sugary. We call them sugar crystals and right now they’re in the colder, shallow snowpack areas and the Northern Rockies. And that condition is wide spread.”
He adds we’re looking at a change in the upcoming snow conditions due to the warm weather which he warns “avalanches really favour.”
“These conditions coming together will be triggerable by humans – quite likely people traveling around on sleds, skis and snowmobiles.”
Floyer says the “unusual conditions” will be wide spread – from just south of McBride near Valemount to areas like the Renshaw and the Torpee to even the Mackenzie/Pine Pass area.
“That’s quite unusual actually in the Pine Pass where the snowpack is usually thicker. So even in those areas you need to be quite cautious of the conditions.”
He encourages those who do plan on heading out to “make good terrain choices.”
“More supportive terrain – terrain that doesn’t roll over into a sort of convex shape. Maybe minimize the exposure from larger, steeper slopes from above.”
Floyer also recommends you “travel with a buddy” and to make sure you only expose one person on a slope at one time and if someone does get stuck to give them some time to “sort out themselves.”
“And if that’s not possible, try one person at a time to go help and keep other people back and off to the side so if something does go wrong, then they can act in a rescue capacity.”
He notes they’re reminding people of the “unusual conditions” because they anticipate a lot of people may be heading out this weekend after the lengthy cold snap.
Floyer adds though just one person has died so far, this year in an avalanche (in Valemount, see previous story here) that typically most fatalities occur in February and March.
Of course, it was nearly one year ago, Dec. 30, 2016 – that five Albertans were killed snowmobiling in McBride.