Avalanche Canada is urging caution for those heading out into the backcountry this weekend with a special avalanche warning in effect for the Sea to Sky, South Coast and South Columbia regions.
In effect until Sunday, March 29, the warning includes areas adjacent to but outside the ski area boundary of Whistler Blackcomb. A map of the affected areas can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/Avywarning.
An unusually mild winter has created “a complex and unpredictable snowpack,” according to a statement from the public safety organization.
“Avalanches are being triggered both in the newer, surface snow and in deeper layers that formed earlier in the winter,” said Avalanche Canada’s avalanche warning service manager Karl Klassen in a release. “This challenging scenario is resulting in numerous close calls and led to two fatalities this past weekend.”
Two snowmobilers, 29-year-old Tom Hamilton and 36-year-old Curtis Fries, were killed March 21 when an avalanche swept down a mountain in an area near McBride, B.C. known as the Dore River Basin.
Avalanche Canada recommends backcountry users stay on simple, low-angle terrain; avoid large, steep slopes; minimize exposure to overhead hazards; avoid travelling where other users are on slopes above; and regroup in safe zones away from avalanche run-outs until conditions improve. The non-profit also suggests staying in areas where avalanche risk is professionally managed if users do not have the proper training or experience to assess avalanche terrain and local conditions.
Backcountry users should also be equipped with the proper safety equipment, advised Avalanche Canada, including an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel for everyone in the party.
For the avalanche forecast, visit www.avalanche.ca.