Avalanche forecasters are comparing this year’s dangerous season to the winter of 2002-03, when the deaths of 29 people led the creation of Avalanche Canada.
These dangerous conditions exist all over B.C., and that’s why anyone with plans to head out this long weekend is being urged to use extreme caution and check the avalanche forecast for their area.
An exceptionally cold start to winter created a very weak layer of “loose, sugary snow crystals” that has now been buried under snowpack.
“Professionals throughout the industry have been very concerned about this layer, and remain concerned about this layer,” said Tyson Rettie, a forecaster with Avalanche Canada.
The kinds of conditions we’re seeing this year can trigger particularly large avalanches.
“Most of these avalanches are destructive enough that they could destroy cars, damage small structures, that type of thing,” said Rettie.
Already, nine people have died this season in British Columbia.
“We don’t necessarily see lots of these avalanches anymore, but when they’re getting triggered they’re really big because they release at the bottom of the snowpack,” said Pascal Haegeli of the Avalanche Research Program at Simon Fraser University.
“They go really wide, and so they create really big avalanches that are basically unsurvivable,” he said.
Anyone who is unsure about the conditions in their area is being advised to stay away, or hire a guide.
Those travelling in groups should cross avalanche paths one at a time.
“So that if you were wrong, and this piece of terrain does avalanche, it’s only one person that is involved. Then, there’s more people at the ready to get into the rescue,” said Rettie.
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