Warming weather prompts Avalanche Canada special public avalanche warning

Warming weather has increased the chance of large natural avalanches significantly. The special public warning extends to all forecast areas in Western Canada.

File photo: A video grab of a huge avalanche triggered east of Revelstoke on the Trans-Canada Highway at the Lanark snowshed on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Photo: Transportation BC.

The rapidly warming weather has prompted Avalanche Canada to issue a Special Public Avalanche Warning for all forecast regions in Western Canada. The recent “dramatic” temperature increase has changed avalanche conditions in the mountains significantly, leading to an increased possibility of large natural avalanches. Read their Mar. 18 media release here:

March 18, 2019: Avalanche Canada, in partnership with Parks Canada and Alberta’s Kananaskis Country, is issuing a Special Public Avalanche Warning for recreational backcountry users, in effect immediately. The warning is widespread and applies to all the forecast regions in Western Canada. For a map of the regions involved, click here.

At issue is the significant warming forecast to hit B.C. and Alberta this week. This dramatic temperature increase will increase the likelihood of avalanches throughout the mountains. At the same time, with the warm weather and B.C.’s spring break, we expect to see more people heading into the mountains.

“This is the first big warming to hit our snowpack, which is still fairly complex and winter-like,” explains Senior Avalanche Forecaster Grant Helgeson. “Any time the snowpack is hit with a big change, it tends to de-stabilize. The temperatures are forecast to increase substantially this week, with no nighttime cooling. This will weaken the snowpack on all aspects, increasing the possibility of large natural avalanches as well making it easier for the weight of a person to trigger deeper weak layers.”

Avalanche Canada, Parks Canada and Kananaskis Country warns all backcountry users, including those going outside ski area boundaries, to keep careful track of their regional avalanche forecasts at www.avalanche.ca. Everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential rescue gear—transceiver, probe and shovel—and the knowledge to use it. Ensure your party re-groups well away from avalanche slopes, including overhead hazard such as cornices.

Those heading to the mountains to snowshoe or explore the front country should also be aware that many popular summer trails are exposed to avalanche terrain. Plan ahead and research your route to make sure you are avoiding these areas.