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backcountry advice

As of Tuesday, March 14 We have not had a real significant dump of snow since Jan. 17 of this year. We have, however, been getting a bit more snow lately. These 15 to 30 centimetre accumulations are quite welcome, but don't go far to burying the old snow layers. Snow profiles taken from locations as far as 30 kilometres apart on different aspects show remarkable similarities. There are a series of buried decomposing layers that remain relatively soft and continue to react as shear planes. Over this there are buried layers of surface hoar, facetted crystals and variable crusts. Finally the above mentioned new snow is forming some new soft slabs and soft cornice noses. In contrast to the above statement regarding uniformity of the snowpack, you can find significant layers of buried surface hoar on one side of the Fitzsimmons valley, and none on the other. The variability of the surface layers, the similarities of the buried mid pack instabilities, and the widespread existence of a November crust weakness (which is province wide) are all leading up to what may be an interesting spring avalanche season. Have you noticed how warm the temperatures get these days? It would seem to me that we skipped March and went straight into April. New snow turns moist from solar activity almost before the storm has passed. Nice light snow quickly slabs up and increases in its destructive potential. The information and observations we make in the morning are no longer valid by mid-day, let alone on the last run out at the end of the day. The new snow of the past week has not been bonding well to the old snow. Skier remote releases of slabs and cornice noses are frequent. Reports of skiers and boarders getting caught by even size one avalanches and being dragged down, sometimes into rocks, keep coming out. Some of these events resulted in injury. A recent boarder-triggered cornice failure in Alberta resulted in the boarder's death. The backcoutry avalanche hazard is rated as Considerable, trending to High this Tuesday, March 14. We had some new snow and the temperature is rising, now the sun is coming out. If it cools off over night it may be moderate by Wednesday morning. Keep your head up, pay attention, have fun.

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