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Canadian Avalanche Centre issues special warning

Danger levels considerable to high in Sea to Sky



This is not a good weekend to head into the backcountry.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) issued a special warning Friday (Feb. 24) advising against travel in the alpine due to very dangerous conditions. According to the CAC website the danger level in the alpine is very high while at and below the tree line the danger level is considerable.

"Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding and conservative decision making essential," the warning on the website said of travel below the alpine.

Brad Sills, the manager of the Search and Rescue team in Whistler, said the warning issued by the CAC is not an exaggeration.

"When they put out a special advisory they mean it," said Sills."They don't use it gratuitously."

Natural avalanches are likely in the high alpine this weekend and human-triggered avalanches are very likely.

He said backcountry users should always consult the CAC website before heading out.

Once a decision is made to go into the backcountry, Sills said his volunteer members won't rush into an unsafe situation to perform a rescue.

"The public has to realize that safety follows three conditions: personal safety, team safety and then the safety of the subject so if you find yourself in an avalanche you're the third consideration when it comes to safety," said Sills. "People need to understand that, yes, we have a search and rescue team, yes, they're very good but they are not going to risk their safety to come and get you."

With 13cm of new snow overnight and an accumulation of 35cm in a 24 hour period, Whistler Blackcomb is reporting all lifts are expected to operate today offering a far safer alternative to the backcountry. Skier and riders are reminded by WB to stay out of permanently closed areas within the ski area boundaries.

According to WB, the main hazards in permanently closed areas includes: cliffs, crevasses and avalanches.

A note on the WB website warns that lift access privileges will be revoked for those who enter permanently closed areas and it is every skier and rider's responsibility to know where they are at all times.

The CAC is predicting conditions will improve Sunday and Monday. The alpine forecast is calling for up to 10cm of snow today, up to 3cm Sunday and partial cloud with no snow expected Monday.

The CAC has posted warnings for a number of areas around B.C., including the North Shore. The danger rating for the North Shore is high at and below the tree line so avalanches are expected in the North Shore backcountry this weekend.