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Risk of Revelstoke-type avalanche not great in Whistler



But fresh snow increased avalanche rating to considerable

While it is always wise to use caution when heading into the backcountry the risk of triggering an avalanche like the fatal Revelstoke one this week is less likely around Whistler.

"Most of what we are finding in our snowpack around here is a very stable," said Ken Hardy, of Whistler Heli-Skiing early this week.

Hardy and several staff spent time this week with a world renowned avalanche expert doing profiles.

"The results we found were pretty stable," he said.

Hardy said there is a world of difference between the Coast Mountain Range and the Interior Mountains where the Monday slide killed seven people.

The slab avalanche on the Durrand Glacier was 30 metres wide and 100 metres long and buried the victims in up to four metres of snow.

"We tend to have a much more stable snow pack in the Coast Range than they have in the Interior," said Hardy.

"You get the majority of the instabilities from shallow snow packs and cold temperatures. From that you get the breakdown of the snow.

"It doesn’t tend to happen as much here and when it does happen the warmer temperatures that we get out here allow it to bond more quickly."

At press time Wednesday, the local avalanche risk was upgraded to considerable on the Whistler-Blackcomb site.

That is defined as natural avalanches being possible and human triggered avalanches probable.

Earlier in the week it was listed as moderate, the same rating given the area where the Revelstoke slide occurred.

The moderate rating means "…that natural avalanches are unlikely, human triggered avalanches are possible and so the recommended action is to use caution in steeper terrain," said Nigel Stewart, assistant avalanche forecaster for Whistler-Blackcomb.

The CAA Web site says this of the South Coast Region: "Surface hoar buried on Christmas Day is now 75-100 cm down and continues to be a potential failure plane.

"A layer of crust and facets from early December remains weak and is down near the base of the snowpack.

"When asking yourself what sort of terrain to enter, remember what an unusual sort of snowpack exists on the Coast this winter.

"Triggering of deep instabilities such as the ones buried right now remains a possibility.

"Long periods of seemingly stable conditions may pass and then very subtle changes or just the right trigger may bring about large avalanches."

Stewart said the situation locally is "tricky."

"All the indicators show that the stability is good and you almost want to lean toward very good," he said.

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