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Backcountry Advice

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As of Wednesday, Jan. 30

Last Friday’s storm gave our region a wildly varied distribution of storm snow, ranging anywhere from 40 to 150 cm. Decreasing wind and convective showers produced a very tasty density profile which has been heavily sampled by skiers, boarders and sled heads over the past few days under nice clear skies. As may be expected, snow stability also is quite wildly variable depending on region or even micro feature.

The storm snow shears have tightened up in the alpine zone of most areas. Lingering instabilities may be found in steep terrain and the usual shallow rocky terrain remains suspect. The treeline and below treeline zones are the main focus of concern. The facet and crust weaknesses are generally widespread from treeline down and are becoming overloaded in regions that received the most storm snow. Other areas are also showing a serious weakness with surface hoar (resulting in a fatality in the Birkenhead drainage).

The wide range in stability depending on region is presenting a challenging situation to backcountry recreationalists. Now is a good time for lots of careful field observations and networking amongst others in the field. Of particular interest is the underutilized bulletin board / chat room on the WWW. AVALANCHE.CA Web site. Similar sites have proven to be a valuable forum for other mountain users such as ice climbers. This bulletin board could be a superb source of close-to-real-time field observation for anyone with access to the Web.

Other sources are WWW.WHISTLERBLACKCOMB.COM and 604-938-7676 for daily advisories for areas adjacent to the ski areas.

On a completely different subject it has been observed by some that avalanche transceivers can be negatively effected by certain electronic devices such as cell phones and GPS units. Do not expect to be found with a transceiver if you have such devices turned on and on your body.

The weather forecast calls for continued cool temperatures and only light amounts of snow until Sunday and Monday, when a stronger frontal system should affect our area. If you really want to make smart decisions then observe carefully as you travel and seek out further information from friends and other sources such as those listed above. Currently the avalanche danger rating ranges from MODERATE TO CONSIDERABLE, depending on locale.

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