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backcountry advice

Backcountry Advisory for the Whistler area for March 1,2000 As wave after frontal wave of unstable air flows over our area, we are once again able to enjoy new snow in the mountains. While no huge instability is building, numerous reports of skier-triggered avalanches are circulating out there. What follows is a familiar refrain where I tell you that it is up to you to be aware of the various surface instabilities that almost always exist in the mountains in winter. The surface that was finally buried on February 22 is still a factor due to the persistent nature of its various crystals from surface hoar and weak facets to hard crusts. The storm snow over this is a series of relatively thin layers starting with an early windslab and then followed by some buried, large well preserved new snow crystals, more soft slabs and windslabs, and of course sun crusts on south aspects. Although the weather is winter like, it is mild. Does this mean anything to the backcountry skier? Now that the days are longer, the sun higher, and with skiers venturing further into the backcountry what about the November crust weakness? There have been reports of cornice releases triggering the November layer from other areas around the province. The potential for a 2.5-metre slab may be minimal just now, but it is not impossible. It is recommended to avoid large cornices even if deep instabilities aren’t a potential factor. As you travel in steep mountainous terrain, over convex rolls or through shallow weak snow-pack areas, think about where it is you are. The Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating for the areas adjacent to the Whistler/Blackcomb ski areas on Wednesday March 1 is "Considerable." Temper your need for fresh snow long enough to weigh all the factors that affect the stability of the slope you want to ski, remember that there will be a lot more good powder days, not to mention better ones, and make the right decision. The main goal in avalanche terrain should be not to get caught, face shots come next, and last comes tomorrow, when you hope to do it all again.