A special public avalanche warning has been issued for B.C.'s interior ranges, with outdoor enthusiasts being told not to venture into the backcountry.

The warning applies to the Lizard Range and Flathead, the south Rockies, Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, south and north Columbia, Glacier National Park and the Cariboo.

According to Avalanche Canada and Parks Canada, the snowpack in those areas has a number of weak layers that have been covered by a heavy snow load that is, in some areas, one metre deep — perfect conditions for triggering a large avalanche.

'At the tipping point'

The warning comes days after a 36-year-old Calgary man died in an avalanche near Fernie, B.C. His body was recovered by RCMP and rescuers on Tuesday.

James Floyer, Avalanche Canada's forecasting program supervisor, said that there have been a number of "near misses" reported over the past 10 days.

"It's a complex situation, and we are now at the tipping point. The warmer temperatures forecast for the coming weekend will definitely increase the chances of triggering an avalanche," he said in a statement.

"Many of these incidents are occurring in what is generally considered fairly safe terrain, such as relatively low-angle slopes, treed areas and even heavily tracked slopes."

"These conditions require expert-level decision making skills, and we recommend backcountry users avoid avalanche terrain. The signs indicating you are exposed to avalanche terrain can be very subtle. If you don't have the training to recognize them, please avoid the backcountry or hire a professional guide."

The warning is in effect until Jan. 15.


A large swath of B.C. is currently under a special avalanche warning. (Avalanche Canada)