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Backcountry avalanche potential worsens in West Kootenay

Nelson Daily Editor
By Nelson Daily Editor
January 7th, 2011

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

With the snowstorm hitting harder than was previously predicted this week, the Canadian Avalanche Centre is forecasting high risks of avalanches in the West Kootenay backcountry heading into this weekend.

Already 20 centimetres have fallen in the backcountry with an additional 20 to 50 cm. expected in the forecast by the weekend. This new snow load may not bond well with the weak snow surfaces, said Shannon Werner of the CAC.

“With a possible 50 cm. of snow and strong southwest winds by Saturday we can expect dangerous avalanche conditions through the weekend,” she wrote in her report Thursday.

There has been some avalanche activity reported due to the use of explosives. However, weak surface layers are expected to become the initial avalanche problem as the snow and wind continue. 

Therefore, travel in avalanche terrain in the backcountry is not recommended, and people are advised to stay well away from avalanche paths and runout zones.

“Seek powder turns inbounds at your local ski hill, and snowmobile in areas which offer zero avalanche problems (large meadows, or low angle trees),” said Werner.


Thursday: Up to 20 cm. overnight

Friday: A chance of 20 cm. Winds moderate to strong from the southwest and freezing levels rising up to 1,200 m.

Saturday: Cloudy with scattered flurries. Freezing levels dropping to valley bottom with light to moderate northwest winds.

Sunday: Cold and dry conditions.

Travel advice in simple terrain

Watch for signs of wind slab, such as smooth snow surfaces, cracking under foot or sled, and stiffer snow.

If you encounter this back off and head to a different location which offers simple terrain travel options.

Practice safe travel techniques with your group: group up in densely treed areas, and on higher ground away from avalanche paths or run out zones. Spread out one at a time when on a slope.

See for more detailed information on the West Kootenay backcountry.


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