Avalanche conditions in the North Columbia are most hazardous at or below the treeline. (File Photo)

Cold weather, fresh snow make for hazardous sledding conditions

Avalanche danger level elevated at and below tree line in North Columbia area

Weeks of cold temperatures coupled with fresh snow has made for potentially hazardous sledding conditions in the Columbia region near Sicamous and Revelstoke.

“Any time we receive a significant amount of snow, 20 centimetres plus, avalanche danger starts to increase,” said Mark Bender, a senior public avalanche forecaster with Avalanche Canada.

Bender added the avalanche danger caused by the falling snow is compounded by a buried weak layer in the snow pack which has been identified as the cause of several snowmobiler and skier-triggered avalanches in recent weeks. He said weak layers are often caused by dew freezing on the surface of the snow pack during periods of clear, cold weather like the one that persisted for most of early February.

Related:One snowmobiler has been killed in avalanche in eastern B.C.

“It creates a situation much like a house of cards essentially. There are v-shaped crystals which form on the surface of the snow pack and then when snow falls on top of those, eventually the weight of the snow sitting on top of it overcomes the strength of those crystals and then releases in avalanches,” Bender said.

He said avalanche danger generally remains stable when the weather is clear and cold and then increases with new snowfall.

Bender expects the weak layer to be problematic for backcountry users regardless of how much new snow falls on top of it. He said other factors such as wind also affect the degree of avalanche danger.

Avalanche Canada posts daily avalanche danger forecasts for 20 mountainous areas in B.C. and western Alberta. Usually avalanche danger is most serious in the alpine but Bender said in the North Columbia, an area north of the stretch of Highway 1 which runs between Kamloops and Rogers Pass, the danger is elevated at and below the tree line.

In the South Columbia area, spanning Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong and the vast swath of mountains between Highways 1 and 6, avalanche danger is moderate at all elevations. Bender said with more snowfall the hazard is likely to increase.

Related:UPDATE: Dad, son killed in avalanche in southeast B.C.

Gord Bushell, general manager of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club, said danger from snow conditions can be minimized by making good choices on the mountain.

“It’s a really big concern for all of us, and everybody really has to watch out on those slopes. You basically have choices –you can make a choice to stay in the meadows and play in the deep snow and have just as much fun as climbing steep chutes and avalanche-prone areas,” he said.

The cold itself can also pose a hazard up in the mountain. Bushell said wise decisions are especially important when the temperature as low as it is. If back country users become stranded he said they must be prepared to survive until they can be rescued.

“Right now the temperatures are down here are -12, but up top they could be -25 overnight,” Bushell said.

“Your chances of surviving in -6 or -12 are a lot better than -25, so you have to make wise choices when you’re up there during the day.”

It is advised backcountry users check the daily forecast for their preferred area at www.avalanche.ca before setting out for a day in the mountains. Avalanche danger ratings are also posted at the trailheads of each area the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club manages.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Interior Savings looks to hand out bursaries

Applications open until Feb. 28

Get ready to fill the stands at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Vernon

The festivities get underway Thursday with the opening ceremony

Vernon to see sunny skies for Family Day

Sunny but cool as Environment Canada calls for wind chill of -9 C Sunday, -13 C Monday

SilverStar Emergency Services Day raises funds for hospital

Over $20,000 was raised for the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation

Vernon art gallery turns out the lights and throws a party

DJ, drinks and food at Art After Dark Feb. 23

Okanagan College professor awarded for promoting financial literacy

Leigh Sindlinger received a Distinguished Service Award for inspiring financial literacy in youth

Poll: What do you think of Family Day weekend’s move?

Until this year, Family Day has fallen on the second Monday in February

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

Most Read