British Columbia

Forecasters warn against venturing into B.C.'s backcountry as avalanche danger rises

B.C. saw its first avalanche death of the season this weekend, and forecasters are warning that heavy rain and snow is creating dangerous conditions in the backcountry across the province.

1st avalanche death of the season reported after group of snowmobilers triggered slide in northern Rockies

One man was killed after an avalanche struck a group of four snowmobilers in the Hasler area of B.C.'s North Rockies on Nov. 27, 2021. (Avalanche Canada)

B.C. saw its first avalanche death of the season this weekend, and forecasters are warning that heavy rain and snow are creating dangerous conditions in the backcountry across the province.

The fatal slide happened on Saturday afternoon, when a group of four snowmobilers were riding in the Hasler area of the North Rockies, near Chetwynd.

According to information from Avalanche Canada and RCMP, one of the riders triggered the avalanche and three were buried in the slide at around 2:10 p.m. Two of the riders managed to dig themselves out, but the third was fully buried and did not survive. 

James Floyer, the forecasting program supervisor for Avalanche Canada, told CBC News that the avalanche was the result of hazardous conditions created by a series of storms that has hit the province in recent days.

"We are basically worried about similar conditions existing in a wide area across Western Canada," he said.

The heavy rain and snow falling across most of B.C. on Tuesday means that most of the province is now at a high or extreme risk of avalanche, with the greatest dangers in places like the Sea-to-Sky region, the northwest coast and the northern Rockies.

"It has affected quite a wide swath of ... British Columbia, moving into Alberta as well," Floyer said.

His advice is for skiers and snowmobilers to hold off on any trips into the backcountry, no matter their level of experience or avalanche training.

"We don't say that lightly," he said. "But given the state of the roads, given the reduced capacity for rescue during times like this, as well as the extreme avalanche danger, really the advice right now is to wait for better conditions."

Conditions should improve in time for the weekend, Floyer said, but it's still important to check the avalanche forecast before heading out.

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