Western Canada on alert for possible ‘large, human-triggered’ avalanches

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 Avalanche Canada, in partnership with Parks Canada and Alberta’s Kananaskis Country, has issued a special public avalanche warning for most of B.C. and Alberta due to the precarious state of the snowpack.

A potent low pressure system tracked across Western Canada earlier this week and dumped heavy snow across the region. Many areas saw between 20-40 cm but some high elevation regions saw up to 70 cm, including Kananaskis Country, Alberta recording 70 cm on December 22.

This heavy snow is resting on top of a critical weak layer that is 60-100 cm below the snow surface, and Avalanche Canada warns that the weight of this snow has brought the snowpack to “a tipping point where large avalanches can be easily triggered by people on snowshoes, skis, or snowmobile.”

“People must be aware that even though the weather has settled, dangerous avalanche conditions remain throughout much of western Canada. There is a serious potential for large, human-triggered avalanches at this time,” says James Floyer, forecast program supervisor for Avalanche Canada.

Backcountry users and people in avalanche terrain are urged to make “make conservative terrain choices and stick to low-angle or densely forested slopes.” Avalanche Canada says that many trails that are popular during the summer months are exposed to avalanche terrain, so caution must be taken in these areas.

“Approach any slope that is steep enough to avalanche with extra caution, and be on the lookout for terrain traps like cliffs, rocks, gullies, and creek beds, which can make the consequences of even a small avalanche even worse.”

See below for a list of the regions that have been issued a special public avalanche warning:

  • Kootenay-Boundary
  • South Columbia
  • North Columbia
  • Purcells
  • Cariboos
  • North Rockies
  • South Rockies
  • Lizard Range-Flathead
  • Banff National Park
  • Yoho National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Waterton Lakes National Park
  • Kananaskis Country

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