Risk in backcountry, avalanche centre warns
The Canadian Avalanche Centre is telling skiers and snowmobilers to stay out of the snowy backcountry in some parts of British Columbia and Alberta this weekend because of the avalanche risk.
The warning — in effect until Monday — covers Kananaskis Country, Canmore and Banff in Alberta and most of the mountainous areas in southern and central B.C.
Widespread weak layers of snow are among the concerns. In early January, a fairly thin crust formed, and since then, there has been a lot of snow — in some areas up to two metres.
All that weight is bearing down on the precarious crust and it wouldn't take much then to trigger avalanches, the centre says.
Mike Koppang, public safety specialist for Kananaskis Country, says with temperatures warming up, it makes for a potentially deadly combination.
Last weekend, avalanches in B.C. and Alberta claimed the lives of three Alberta men.
Warning keeps skiers indoors
Backcountry enthusiasts throughout B.C. and Alberta packed away their gear over the weekend because of the dangerous snowpack.
Skier Alexandra Kobalenko decided to confine herself to the safety of the Canmore Nordic Centre until the avalanche danger subsides.
"I haven't seen it this severe for a long, long time — for at least 15 to 20 years," she said.
Fellow skier Jerome Cyr said he won't head to the backcountry until conditions are safer. He said avalanche training has prepared him to be cautious.
"You got the gut feeling that something might be wrong … you have to choose another route or go somewhere else where it's maybe safer or just turn around and go back to your car."
However, Cyr said he expects many backcountry skiers and snowmobilers will ignore the avalanche warning.
"I'm 100 per cent sure many people don't even look at the [Canadian Avalanche Centre] website," he said. "They think they're avalanche gods and they know everything there is to know."
Cyr said he defied warnings until several friends were killed in avalanches. Now he takes a beacon whenever he goes into the backcountry and heeds the centre's warnings.
- An earlier version of this story reported erroneously that the Canadian Avalanche Centre had said the avalanche risk was the worst in 30 years. In fact, no such statement was made by the centre.Oct 09, 2013 11:44 PM PT