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Poor snowpack conditions prompts avalanche warning

Province urges backcountry users to check avalanche forecasts
An image of the Hasler riding area.

The province is warning people to be avalanche aware following the death of a snowmobiler near Chetwynd.

"Last season was one of the most tragic years for avalanche fatalities in B.C., and so far this year, one person has sadly lost their life to an avalanche," said Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. 

"Avalanches can occur suddenly and without warning, but there are steps people can take to understand the risks and be prepared before heading into our mountain ranges. Please regularly check the Avalanche Canada forecast before heading out and follow any guidance from Avalanche Canada to stay safe."

On Saturday, January 27, a snowmobiler was caught buried in an avalanche in the Hasler riding area, west of Chetwynd. The rider was located and extracted by snowmobilers at the scene, but did not survive.

Recent heavy rain saturated and weakened the upper snowpack in several regions in B.C. Until colder temperatures return, the snowpack is likely to remain unstable. Avalanche conditions are dynamic and highly dependent on weather and will change throughout the season.

The province urges people to check the Avalanche Canada forecasts and danger ratings before going out into the backcountry.

"It is vital for anyone venturing into the winter backcountry to have a full appreciation of the hazards and the training to navigate them safely," said James Floyer, Avalanche Canada program director.

"It's important for backcountry users to read the avalanche forecast and use that information to make terrain choices that match the conditions. Everyone in your group should carry a transceiver, probe and shovel, and have the training to use them."

During the past 10 years, approximately 75 per cent of all Canadian avalanche fatalities have occurred in B.C. and approximately 85 per cent of Avalanche Canada's services are delivered in B.C.

Advice from Avalanche Canada:

  • Everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential gear, such as a transceiver, shovel and probe, and the training to use them.
  • Adopt a cautious mindset when in avalanche terrain.
  • Be diligent about terrain choices. Adapt your plan to reduce exposure to avalanche danger.
  • Follow disciplined group decision-making, ensuring that each group member is engaged in terrain selection.
  • Travel one at a time, regroup in safe spots and be aware of overhead hazards when exposed to avalanche terrain.
  • Avoid exposure to terrain traps such as gullies, cliffs and trees to reduce the consequences of being caught in an avalanche.
  • Be aware of the potential for large, deep, wet avalanches to run full path or even longer.
  • In areas where persistent weak layers exist, avalanches may step down to these layers.