For the fourth time in five weeks the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) has issued a special public warning for recreational backcountry users.
The warning comes following a series of incidents in the backcountry around the province that have led to injuries and deaths due to avalanches, including one fatal incident near Grizzly Lake at Powder Mountain on March 6.
The CAC warning specifically stressed the avalanche danger for the interior mountains but the warning also mentioned the south coast inland area. The warning was issued Friday (March 23) and extends to Monday (March 26).
"Our main concern is the same weak layer we have been tracking for the past month," said Ilya Storm, Forecast Coordinator for the CAC's Public Avalanche Warning Service. "Over the past few days, we have received numerous reports of very large avalanches and near-misses throughout the areas affected by the warning. We're hearing about people with lots of experience who were surprised by avalanches, sometimes triggered from a significant distance. What's significant is that in many of these cases, the terrain was relatively simple. That tells us this weak layer is primed for triggering."
Whistler Blackcomb rated the backcountry just outside its area boundary as moderate in the alpine, low to moderate at the treeline and low below the treeline. The CAC had a more cautious rating for the entire Sea to Sky region on Saturday with the following ratings: considerable in the alpine and moderate at and below the treeline. The danger rating for Sunday and Monday is low to moderate in all three zones.
"Adding to the situation, the weekend forecast is for clear skies and sunshine in the regions covered by the warning," wrote Storm in a news release. "The sun is going to entice backcountry users in the alpine but at the same time it will have a destabilizing effect on the snowpack. With current volatility of that layer, this is a potentially deadly combination."
The CAC posted a conditions alert video on the CAC YouTube channel. That video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/user/canadianavalanchectr.
Anyone planning a backcountry visit over the next few days is advised by the CAC and search and rescue organizations to be cautious. Backcountry travellers should have a shovel, probe, transceiver and the knowledge needed to use them if someone is caught in the slide.