Special avalanche warning issued for East Kootenay

Unusual conditions have treeline areas more dangerous than alpine

A special public avalanche warning has been issued for the weekend by Avalanche Canada. Most of the popular recreational terrain in the area is under this warning: North Rockies, Cariboos, North and South Columbia, Glacier National Park, the Purcells, South Rockies and Lizard Range.

For this particular warning, backcountry users are warned that the elevation below the treeline is actually more dangerous than the high alpine.

Avalanche Canada says the issue in these regions is a weak layer at lower elevations, which means the snowpack at and below treeline is more dangerous than the alpine. Forecasters are concerned this unusual situation may catch some backcountry recreationists off guard. Many close-calls involving this layer have been reported over the past few days and with the coming weekend, more people will be heading out into the mountains.

“With this layer, the trees are not the safe haven they normally are,” explains Senior Avalanche Forecaster Grant Helgeson. “And identifying avalanche terrain in these lower elevations can be difficult. You need to be aware of smaller slopes like cutblocks, roadcuts, gullies or even just openings in the trees. This is where the weak layer will be a problem and where it’s primed for human-triggered avalanches.”

Avalanche Canada is warning backcountry users to use safe travel techniques and avoid avalanche terrain at and below treeline in the regions covered by this warning. Everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential rescue gear—transceiver, probe and shovel—and know how to use it. Always check the current avalanche conditions at www.avalanche.ca.

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