The Coquihalla Highway is closed, indefinitely, in both directions between Hope and Merritt, B.C., after a major avalanche near the Great Bear Snowshed.

The Ministry of Transportation says the current avalanche conditions "have not been seen during the 27 years the highway has been open."

Theo Faber has been a professional driver in B.C. for 16 years and has driven almost every highway in the Pacific Northwest. On Twitter, he calls himself "Coquihalla Warrior."

Faber is based out of Abbotsford, B.C., but On the Coast's Matthew Lazin-Ryder reached him on the road to Edmonton.


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Three helicopters stand by on the Coquihalla Highway as provincial crews prepare to bombard nearby mountains to release snow in a major avalanche control project that started Friday. (VSA Highway Maintenance)

1. How vital is access to the Coquihalla, for your job? 

Well it's pretty vital for a lot of people especially for moving goods and cargo. A lot of stuff is moving back and forth from east to west. Having a major four-lane highway open is definitely something that we need.

2. What do you take for an alternate route?

Usually I take Highway 1 which is through the Fraser Canyon but I find, you know, going through the canyon is a little bit more time-consuming. It adds another hour going to Kamloops, you're fighting through traffic, you've got oncoming traffic as well coming. You've got to watch for the other guy coming as well.

3. Compared to the Coquihalla, how dangerous is the Fraser Canyon route?

I don't feel too bad because I know that road, and I remember driving that road for years and years. It's pretty common for me. I've been up and down that road more in a truck. I can't even remember if I've been on that road in a car. I go that way quite frequently but it adds on to the end of your day.

4. When you have to take such a longer route, what does that mean for how you run your business?

It usually means we don't get as much done in the work week as we should get done. If we're running over the Coquihalla, we can maintain a constant speed and be able to service our customers properly and have a safer work day at the end of the day.

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Mount Cheops is seen in the background near a sign on a trail head in Glacier National Park in British Columbia. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

5. But all that extra time, does it mean a personal loss for you?

It can mean we don't get that extra load at the end of the week. Or it could mean you're getting a lot more hours than you want to be doing. At the end of your work day you're pretty fatigued, you don't want to have to keep doing that.

6. Is there anything that anyone could do, other drivers or the Ministry of Transportation, to make your job easier and safer?

You take all the highways, and they're all serviced by different contractors. You take the Coquihalla, it is a little bit of a harder road to look after. We need to start using salt more on the snowshed hill … we need to remove snow and we've got to do it fast. When that snow is plowed out of the road, we need to get some salt down there. Get that snow to melt down and go away. It involves public safety. Everybody wants to go home at the end of the day.



CBC