Potential for huge avalanches this weekend

Avalanche Canada issues special warning for Rockies and Purcells

  • Nov. 27, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Avalanche Canada issued a special public avalanche warning which includes the Rockies and the Purcells that will be in effect from Friday, Nov. 28 to Monday, Dec. 1.

The warning comes as strong winds and warm temperatures bring high avalanche danger to the regions.

“In many parts of the B.C. Interior we’ve had over a meter of snowfall in the past week,” Joe Lammers, public avalanche forecaster at the Avalanche Canada. “This new snow is overlying some of the weak crystals that formed during the recent dry cold spell that every one remembers.”

He suspects much of the backcountry is in the midst of a natural avalanche cycle, with the potential for large destructive avalanches in many regions.

The weekend weather is supposed to break with clear skies and cool weather.

“Natural avalanche activity will likely taper off and the warning signs will be less obvious,” he said. “That said I’m certain human triggered avalanches will still be a very real possibility.

“I should point out that the avalanches we could see could be large enough to destroy a truck.”

Areas the avalanche centre is especially concerned about include Caribous, the North Columbia, the South Columbia, the Purcells and the Lizard Flathead.

“I would hedge my bets and suspect that the Kootenay-Boundary region, the South Rockies and the North Rockies should at least be on our radar,” he said.

Lammers said they don’t have steady data streams coming from those areas, which makes it difficult to predict the danger. Another problem he mentioned is the variability from region to region.

“It’s just really important for people to be aware of their localized danger,” he said. “And when in doubt just real it back. The snowpack structure is complicated at this point. My advice to backcountry travellers is if you’re heading to the backcountry, I would just stick to low-angle terrain. I’d watch your overhead hazards. I wouldn’t regroup in the run-out zone of the avalanche slide paths.”

Lammers encouraged people to take it easy this weekend.

“If you have a bad feeling about the terrain that your group is heading into, I’d speak up,” he said. “It’s a long season with lots of great riding ahead of us. You’ll want to be around to enjoy it.”

It’s also a good time to brush up on using avalanche gear. He noted each backcountry user must be equipped with essential avalanche safety equipment — an avalanche transceiver, a probe and a shovel.

It is also important that everyone has avalanche training and has practiced using the equipment.

For the avalanche forecast, check www.avalanche.ca. For further thoughts on the current conditions, please read our Forecaster Blog at www.avalanche.ca/blogs.