British Columbia

Avalanche risk high in B.C., Alberta backcountry

Heavy snow and the risk of avalanches closed several B.C. mountain passes Wednesday and created dangerous conditions in the backcountry.

Heavy snow and the risk of avalanches have closed several B.C. mountain passes, including the Trans-Canada Highway between Golden and Revelstoke.

Highway 1 was scheduled to remain closed until at least 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Kootenay Pass on Highway 3 and Highway 23 from Revelstoke to Mica Dam were also closed early Wednesday morning due to avalanche risk.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre is warning now is a very dangerous time to be out in the backcountry.

There was an avalanche at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden. RCMP said the slide came down on a ski run, but no one was trapped or injured. 

In Banff, Alta., outdoor enthusiasts like Karen Burns were getting ready to enjoy the great weather, but the avalanche risk wasn't far from her mind.

"When I am skiing I stay on the paths that are marked and I don't go to where it says avalanche danger," she said.

Burns said she pays attention to all the warning signs, and now it might be easier to read those signs thanks to a new and improved forecast on the Canadian Avalanche Centre's website. 

"The point is to give people the tools and information so they can make good decisions on their own," said Marc Ledwidge, Parks Canada manager for visitor safety.

He tells us people need to prepare themselves by taking an avalanche safety training course.

In the backcountry the avalanche risk for most alpine area of southern B.C. is rated high. Tim Jones with North Shore Search and Rescue says there is heavy snow on top of a slippery ice crust.

"There is this wet snow slab because of all the precipitation and that is the biggest hazard. Somebody is going to trigger a release on a steep slope and create a snow slab-type avalanche," said Jones.

Ledwidge says Parks Canada are keeping avalanches from closing the highway by clearing away snow.

"In Banff, Yoho, Kootney, most of our avalanche control is helicopter bombing where we throw explosives from the helicopter," he said.

Weather warnings have been issued for southwestern areas of B.C., including Metro Vancouver, which is forecast to get up to 50 millimetres of rain when a new frontal system crosses the region later on Wednesday.