Avalanche Canada advising backcountry enthusiasts reacquaint themselves with proper avalanche safety training and eqipment as winter season begins. Wikipedia photo

Forecasters promote avalanche safety awareness

Avalanche Canada advising backcountry enthusiasts to get proper training and equipment.

As the season moves into winter, the backcountry becomes a paradise for adventure-seekers looking to enjoy all that the local mountain ranges have to offer.

However, it’s also time to get smart about the dangers of avalanches.

Avalanche Canada is set to begin daily avalanche forecasts next week, however, given the early arrival of snow, forecasters are telling the public to get the proper safety training and equipment and be aware of conditions before heading out into the backcountry.

Snowfall depth and quality is currently inconsistent in various parts of the region, depending on how high the elevations are, says Grant Helgeson, a forecaster with Avalanche Canada.

“That tells us a couple things,” he said. “One, it’s incredibly spatially variable right now. Two, it’s a lot of work on your skis, sled or snowshoes to actually get up high to the places that we want to ride.

“The other side of that, is as we chase that snow up into the higher terrain, we’re actually going right to where any early season avalanche problems exist because if there is enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide.”

The beginning of winter can mean consistent freeze-thaw cycles as the season slowly shifts to colder weather.

That can help set up the mountain terrain for a nice base of snow, Helgeson said.

“You take all that loose powder show and you give it a few freeze-thaw cycles and it shrinks, it gets shorter, it gets denser, and that can really be a nice base,” he said. “But we often look at the freeze-thaw from the valley location, and that freeze-thaw might actually not be occurring in the upper elevations.

“I think in some places it can remain quite cold and windy with a decent amount of snow, say 40-70 centimetres to push around into fresh wind slabs.”

Below the treeline, the freeze-thaw cycle helps to establish the snowpack, however, up in the alpine region, all bets are off.

Getting reacquainted with proper safety procedures and training with the right equipment will help prevent any backcountry mishaps, Helgeson added.

“One thing that happens early seasons, is down low it’s easy for us to get complacent,” he said. “It’s difficult to remember to even turn your transceiver on when you’re standing on dirt at the valley bottom.

Helgeson recommends that backcountry users take the time to learn how to properly work the transceiver and put in fresh batteries and also inspect your shovel and snow probe.

“Then start to think about that, start to think about what you’d do in an avalanche rescue,” Helgeson said.

Taking an Avalanche Skills Training Level One course at the beginning of the season is a great way to get grounded in the proper procedures and safety protocols surrounding avalanche danger, Helgeson said.

Helgeson also encourages backcountry users to submit information and snow conditions to the Mountain Information Network on the Avalanche Canada website. He says users won’t be obligated to give up their secret specific recreation locations, but any information, including pictures, would be helpful to forecasters.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay program encourages gardeners to share what they grow during pandemic

The West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op is sending out free seeds, but with a catch

Nelson and COVID-19: everything you need to know

Check this page for every local story related to the outbreak

West Kootenay residents stranded in Peru seek a way home

Three West Kootenay residents are in remote places, unable to get to Lima’s international airport

PHOTOS: Neighbourhood stroll during a pandemic

Jackie Zelt went looking for people in a time of isolation

West Kootenay couple escapes Spain – safe, sound, and in self-isolation

BC couple Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Apartments evacuated during police stand-off

The incident occurred at Grand Forks apartment building on March 28

Most Read