Avalanche dangers drop, but conditions uncertain in region

Avalanche dangers look to be on a downward trend this weekend, though they are still be present with temperatures turning cooler again.

Avalanche dangers look to be on a downward trend this weekend, though they are still be present with the warm, wet and windy conditions turning cooler again.

“Over the last few days we’ve had steady rain up to about 2,200 meters,” said Joe Lammers, public avalanche forecaster at the Canadian Avalanche Centre. “Above that, many parts of the Columbia mountains and the South Rockies saw snowfall and strong southwest winds.”

Lammers said the rain has saturated and weakened the snowpack, especially at the treeline elevation and below.

“With forecast cooling this weekend a crust will likely develop where the rain soaked snow refreezes adding some strength to the snow pack,” he said, cautioning that the weight of the recent precipitation will add stress to weak layers that exist a meter below the surface.

Thought the forecast is calling for less dangerous conditions, there is a warning that the confidence rating for both the South Rockies and the Lizard Range and Flathead are poor due to low field observations.

“We’ve had very few observations in the last few days,” he said. “There is some uncertainty how the load of this new snow sitting on these deeper buried weak layers is going to behave.”

The forecast for the South Rockies ranges from Considerate in the alpine, Moderate in the treeline and Low below treeline for Friday. On Saturday, the forecast drops to Moderate in the alpine, Moderate in the treelike and Low below treeline.

He said that despite the danger levels dropping he would recommend taking it easy.

“Because of the uncertainty — reel it back — ease yourself back into terrain,” he said. “I would still take it easy. Especially in those upper elevations where that crust is unlikely to form, because you typically just have that new snow on top of surfaces that didn’t go through a melt-freeze process.”

The avalanche centre rates the danger on a scale of 1-4 with Low, Moderate, Considerate and High.

The Lizard Range forecast for Friday is Considerate in the alpine, Moderate in the treelike and Low below treeline. On Saturday the forecast drops to Moderate in the alpine, Low in the treelike and Low below treeline.

Meanwhile, on Friday the Purcells are forecast as Considerate in the alpine, Moderate in the treelike and below. On Saturday the alpine and treelike will be Moderate, while it drops to Low below treeline.

The confidence for that date is fair, though it warns that the timing of the incoming weather systems is uncertain.

For more information on conditions, head to www.avalanche.ca.