While the recent snowfall may lure the public out into the backcountry, Avalanche Canada is warning that the danger rating is high in the Kootenay/Boundary region.
A special public avalanche warning was initially issued on Dec. 26 but extended to Jan. 4, but the recent snowstorm is ensuring that conditions remain dangerous.
“Right now with the current storm pattern, we’ve got avalanches closing down highways, up in the mountains, the snow’s blowing sideways, there’s natural avalanches running left, right and centre,” said Joe Lammers, a public avalanche forecaster with Avalanche Canada.
In terms of the backcountry conditions, Lammers said up to 40 centimetres of new snow has fallen in the last 24 hours, with more in the forecast.
“With more snow on the way and a lot of wind, that’s creating what we call a really potent storm slab condition, and that’s a really potent surface instability that is relatively short-lived,” Lammers said.
“That said, what it’s doing is it’s overriding a lot of the weaknesses that were created earlier in the season that now exist in excess of one metre below the surface.
“There were touchy conditions before the storm on those layers; now with this increased load on those layers, I’ll bet that those layers will react with very light loads and the result will be avalanches could be really large and destructive.”
There was more snow on Tuesday leading into Wednesday, and coupled with some freezeing temperatures, conditions will continue to be unstable.
“What we’re forecasting for the Kootenay/Boundary region for the next couple days is what we’re calling an above-freezing layer,” said Lammers, “so in the alpine, we’re expecting temperatures to exceed zero degrees and with a bit of sun and that warming, that’ll continue to have a destabilizing effect on the snowpack, so the storm might be over but we’re definitely not out of the woods and that’s going to keep avalanche danger ratings in the high category for at least tomorrow.
Lammers advises anyone going out into the backcountry have proper training and equipment such as a shovel, avalanche probe and transceiver.
“If people haven’t ticked all those boxes, now is definitely not a time to be playing in the mountains,” Lammers said.
Avalanche Canada has information on local conditions on their website at avalanche.ca.