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Avalanche risk still high in the spring


Staff writers
March 21, 2013 — Spring has sprung and avalanche experts have tips and advice for staying safe throughout the warmer season.


Sunshine and warmer temperatures can help trigger a slide
Sunshine and warmer temperatures can help trigger a slide

With the change in seasons and temperatures starting to warm up, many Canadians think that the risk of avalanches in BC and Alberta goes down at this time of year. 

According to the Canadian Avalanche Centre however, that is not the case. 

Officials say springtime is generally when the largest avalanches occur, due to sunshine warming up and weakening the snow pack 

"The recipe for an avalanche is having a bed surface, a weak layer, and a slab," says Grant Helgeson with the CAC. "So when you get all three of those things interacting together, you've got an avalanche."

Avalanche risk in western Canada can continue into the middle of May
Avalanche risk in western Canada can continue into the middle of May

Still, many Canadians enjoy spring skiing or snowboarding, especially as the snow continues to accumulate.

"It's spring break, so there's a lot of families enjoying the slopes," says Joffrey Koeman with Cypress Mountain. "The snow levels this year are much higher than they are normally, I'd say almost 100 cm higher than normal, so it's full coverage of the mountain and great conditions up here." 

For those venturing to the back country recreation areas, officials recommend knowing the risks first. 

"Once you've checked the forecast, go ahead and make sure you've got your pack altogether," says Helgeson. "What you need in your pack is an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe, and it’s not enough to have these things, you have to know how to use them."

In an average year in western Canada, the risk of avalanches can exist into the middle of May.

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