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Avalanche Canada and coroners issue special warning ahead of long weekend

Avalanche Canada and coroners say a change in weather is expected and it could lead to an unstable snowpack. Risk ratings have been upgraded for the upcoming long weekend.

Expected change in weather could lead to an unstable snowpack

Backcountry enthusiasts are being warned by Avalanche Canada and the B.C. Coroners Service of the elevated risk of avalanches ahead of the B.C. Family Day long weekend. (CBC)

Avalanche Canada and the B.C. Coroners Service have joined forced in hopes of saving lives over British Columbia's upcoming Family Day long weekend.

The two organizations have issued a special warning urging backcountry enthusiasts to know the conditions and use extreme caution as they head out.​ 

Avalanche Canada executive director Gilles Valade. said conditions are still being assessed, but there's no question a change in weather is on the way, and that could lead to an unstable snowpack.

"It's risk management, 90 per cent-plus of avalanches that involve people getting caught are caused by somebody in your own party or in a party that's in or around the same area," he said.

Because conditions have been relatively consistent and safe for several weeks, Valade is concerned it may create a false sense of security on backcountry trails.

The organization's risk forecast for avalanches along B.C.'s south coast was upgraded to moderate and high for Friday and Saturday.

Coroner Barb McLintock said three of the five snowmobilers who died last week in McBride, B.C., were using avalanche airbags, but even that level of preparation could not save them from the huge slide.

"I think what we would like people to realize that even with all of the safety equipment, there is still a very high risk."

Until last week's tragedy, Valade says only one person had been killed in an avalanche during the 2015 to 2016 season.

With files from Deborah Goble

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