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Spring avalanche risk


Kelsey McEwen, reporter
April 3, 2013 — There’s no better time of year to experience the glory of the Rocky Mountains. Many slopes are still snow covered, and the weather is mild enough to enjoy the scene. But while this combination allows for outdoor fun, it can also prove to be deadly.


Between 1984 and 2003, almost half of the avalanche incidents in Canada occurred in the interior ranges of B.C. due to more intense weather conditions (compared to 34% in the Rocky Mountains and 16% in the Coast Mountains); via: avalanche.ca
Between 1984 and 2003, almost half of the avalanche incidents in Canada occurred in the interior ranges of B.C. due to more intense weather conditions (compared to 34% in the Rocky Mountains and 16% in the Coast Mountains); via: avalanche.ca

It’s the reality of spring in the mountains -- warmer temperatures mean a snow pack that might start the day stable can quickly deteriorate.

Increased amounts of solar radiation and daytime heating can increase the avalanche danger to 'considerable’ or even ‘high’ each afternoon.

The risk only rises when overnight temperatures don’t drop low enough to re-freeze the slope.
 
"Suddenly it goes from being warm inside but a crust on top holding it together, to suddenly everything is wet," says Albi Sole, of the Calgary Outdoor Centre. "And like water, it wants to flow. And then we get these really super big avalanches that clean out the whole snowpack."
 
And the result can be devastating.

There have been eight snow slides reported to the Canadian Avalanche Centre since the start of spring this year. One of which claimed the life of a snowmobiler in British Columbia.

"We’re talking monster avalanches, and if you get caught in them, it’s really not going to be a good thing at all," adds Sole.

But even with the risk, experts say there is still fun to be had in the back country – if you've done your homework. 

"The first place to go of course is avalanche.ca, and there’s a button there for a bulletins, and you can pull up bulletins for all of western Canada in there, so that’s really your starting place. If you want to go do these types of activities, then you should get training on avalanche hazard." 

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