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

Funds needed for special diving team to find missing Okanagan kayaker

Zygmunt Janiewicz was last seen on Okanagan Lake May 17

Lake Country councillors want stricter regulations, more signage on public smoking

In 2019, 21 fires in Vernon to Penticton zone have been human caused, some linked to cigarette butts

Kelowna Falcons’ take flight for shut-out victory

Kelowna’s bats and pitchers led the Falcons to a 3-0 win

Unexpected snow on Okanagan Connector, Pennask Summit

As of 6:50 a.m. DriveBC cameras displayed surprise snowfall on highway

Spikeball tournament sets up for Kelowna summer

The tournament for the four-player beach game comes July 13

VIDEO: Weekday weather update for the Okanagan Valley

Snow is expected on the Okanagan connector and thunderstorms across the Valley

B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

Pair of B.C. cities crack Ashley Madison’s “Infidelity Hotlist”

Data from the website reveals Abbotsford and Kelowna hottest spots for cheaters

Okanagan school digs up $2,500 recycling prize

Kalamalka Secondary students recognized for establishing a new culture of recycling

Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Billboards featuring Indigenous artwork to be placed in Surrey, Kamloops and near Prince George

Driver loses tire while behind the wheel after lug-nut thief strikes in Burnaby

Burnaby RCMP are investigating after two reports of lug-nut tampering in the city this month

Federal cabinet ministers visit Edmonton, Calgary, in wake of TMX approval

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi is set to visit Trans Mountain Corp.’s terminal in Edmonton

B.C. municipality prepares to forbid overnight camping by homeless despite court ruling

While courts have ruled against blanket bans, Langley City is employing a site-by-site approach

B.C. auditor says Indigenous grad rate highest ever but education gaps exist

The percentage of Indigenous students graduating from B.C. public high schools has hit its highest level ever

Most Read