Avalanche death toll reaches 26; worst winter since 1965 

CAA says to exercise caution in B.C. backcountry

After a rash of recent avalanche deaths in B.C., the operations manager at the Canadian Avalanche Association is encouraging people to lower their expectations for adventure in the backcountry.

"Play it safe this year," said Evan Manners.

"Nature is dictating that be the rule."

This season has been one of deadliest winters for snow slides in B.C. in almost four decades. There have been 26 deaths to date; six of those have occurred in the last week and a half.

It’s the worst year since 1965 when there were 28 fatalities. On top of that the season isn’t over yet said Manners.

Even in the Coast Mountains around Whistler, a range which sees the fewest avalanche-related deaths, there is reason to exercise more caution that usual this year.

"It’s a year where things are different," said Manners.

"It’s still not time to stay out of the mountains but it’s a time to have an extra level of caution."

Generally the Coast Mountains don’t see the kind of fatal avalanche accidents that have wreaked havoc in the Interior this year. The snow pack on the coast is less likely to have persistent instabilities in the old layers.

But Manners says even in the safer Coast Mountains there are still instabilities.

Veteran avalanche forecaster at Whistler-Blackcomb Jan Tindle said the avalanche danger in the Coast Mountains was "moderate" at the beginning of the week because of the cooling weather.

"The snow came in really warm and it even rained in a lot of places so that when that freezes it tightens up the snow pack," she said.

"You can imagine it just gloms it all together."

But any new snow will most likely bring the danger levels back up again.

Even with all the controls in place within the ski boundaries at Whistler-Blackcomb, a very small avalanche was recently triggered about two weeks ago by a skier in the Christmas Trees zone on Whistler.

Tindle said this is one of a handful of small avalanches, which occur in bounds every year.

"So either the ski cut in or the bomb didn’t do what it was supposed to do or sometimes... it’s possible for (the snow) to reload after the control is done," she said, adding that is was snowing quite a lot on the day the avalanche took place.

The in bounds slide was nothing in scale compared to the events which have rocked various parts of the Interior over the past week and a half.


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