Special avalanche warning issued for B.C. South Coast

Avalanche Canada is issuing a special public warning, saying recent storms have created dangerous situations in certain terrain across B.C.’s South Coast.

The warning will be in place from Thursday, Feb. 29, through to Monday, March 4.

The organization says “a significant amount of snow” has fallen across western Canada in recent days, noting this now sits on “prominent weak layers established during drought conditions” earlier this month.

Avalanche Canada says in some areas, there are multiple weak layers.

A map of B.C. showing avalanche warning areas for the period of Feb. 29, 2024, to March 4, 2024
A map of B.C. showing avalanche warning areas for the period of Feb. 29, 2024, to March 4, 2024. (Courtesy Avalanche Canada)

“As the active storm period passes, widespread natural avalanche activity will slow. However, human-triggered avalanches remain likely,” the agency explained.

While Avalanche Canada says the structure of the problematic layers differs from region to region, they are “highly problematic and reactive in all.” It is urging people who are in backcountry avalanche terrain to “not underestimate the instability” of the layers.

“Although the new snow is appealing, making conservative terrain choices will be an important strategy for all backcountry users over the next few days. A good way to do this is by sticking to lower angle slopes, avoiding overhead hazard, and choosing smaller objectives that minimize the consequences of an avalanche,” the group advised, adding anyone venturing into the backcountry should check the avalanche forecast before they head out.

On Wednesday, avalanche forecaster Tyson Rettie told CityNews that people who are “not able to reliably identify avalanche terrain” should simply “avoid the backcountry.”

“But if you’re feeling good about your ability to identify avalanche terrain, there’s plenty of places to recreate safely, you just need to stay out of avalanche terrain right now,” he added.

“Outside the resort boundary, [there is] high hazard right now for the whole South Coast area. That crust that I had mentioned, that is a concerning weak layer, once you get kind of outside the North Shore and into the Sea to Sky mountains, toward the Duffy, Coquihalla, that’s where that crust really comes into play.”

Backcountry users are reminded to have the appropriate gear, including a transceiver, probe, and shovel, as well as avalanche training.

So far this year, there have been two avalanche-related fatalities in B.C., the most recent on Saturday, Feb. 24, in the Castle Wildland Provincial Park, southeast of Fernie.

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