The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is issuing a special public avalanche warning for the backcountry areas of the South Coast Mountains from Pemberton to Lillooet and north - not including the Whistler and Vancouver areas - and the Columbia Mountains from the U.S. border to south of Prince George. The warning is in place from Thursday, Feb. 18 through to Monday, Feb. 22.
CAC Operations Manager John Kelly reports there are several weak layers in the upper snowpack and the weight of a person or a snowmobile will trigger avalanches. The snowpack is now extremely volatile.
"We have had two separate avalanche fatalities and several close-calls reported to our office in recent days," said Kelly. "This season's snowpack has been forgiving so far but that pattern has ended.�The contrast may catch people by surprise. What you were doing last month may no longer be a good option."
A backcountry skier died in an avalanche while travelling through the Trophy Mountain area near Clearwater on Wednesday. The skier was part of a group that triggered the avalanche.
Last weekend a snowmobiler died in an avalanche near Revelstoke.
The CAC recommends all recreational backcountry users plan their activities according to the avalanche conditions. In this case, that means staying on simple, low-angle terrain, avoiding avalanche paths, and monitoring the advice in the avalanche bulletins for the duration of this warning period.
Everyone in a backcountry party needs to be equipped with a shovel, probe and transceiver and the CAC strongly recommends all backcountry users take an avalanche awareness course.
Snowpack stability changes constantly throughout the winter; backcountry users need to check the avalanche bulletin regularly to keep informed of conditions in their area. Avalanche bulletins are available at www.avalanche.ca/bulletins or by phoning 1 800 667 1105.