For the second time in two weeks a special weekend warning has been issued by The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC).
The special warning was posted Friday (March 9) advising that the number of avalanches expected this weekend in the backcountry is greater than usual.
“We have a variety of issues within the snowpack right now that cause us two main concerns,” Ilya Storm, the CAC’s Public Avalanche Warning Services Coordinator, wrote in a news release. “The first is that the size of avalanches is likely to be much bigger than might be expected, and could be triggered remotely, which means triggered at a distance or from the bottom of the slope. Our other main concern is that slopes generally considered safer — lower angle, below treeline — are primed for human triggering.
“Knowing the slope history is key to good decisions right now," wrote Storm. "And make sure you park in safe spots — well to the side of any avalanche path or far away from the runout zone. Given the size of recent avalanches, the bottom of runout zones this weekend might be farther than you think.”
Storm added that local knowledge and a high level of training and experience are needed to travel safely in avalanche terrain this weekend.
The warning came just four days after an avalanche took the life of Dennis Leski of Squamish while he was sledding with friends in the Grizzly Lake area.
Brad Sills, the manager of the Search and Rescue team in Whistler, said the last time the CAC issued a warning that the the organization does not exaggerate when it issues special warnings.
The latest bulletin for the Sea to Sky region has indicated the avalanche hazard rating in below the treeline is considerable while the rating in the treeline zone is high. The rating for areas above the treeline is also high.
These ratings are expected to remain high through Monday. All avalanche terrain is to be avoided, according to the bulletin for the Sea to Sky area.
According to the CAC, everyone in a backcountry party needs to be equipped with a shovel, probe and transceiver and the CAC strongly recommends all backcountry users take an avalanche awareness course. More detailed information is available on the CAC forecaster’s blog found at www.avalanche.ca/cac.
A note on the WB website warns that access to Garibaldi Park from the Symphony Chair road is no longer be available during times when avalanche closures are in place at the bottom of Harmony Chair. The Singing Pass Trail is the alternate access for those who want to access the backcountry.
"Backcountry access tickets will only be sold if the avalanche signs are open or if there is a strong likelihood that they will be opened after avalanche control is conducted," a warning on the WB website notes. "There may be times when the avalanche closures remain in place all day. Whistler Blackcomb has unfortunately been forced to adopt this policy due to the increasing numbers of guests who are using the park access route to enter into closed avalanche terrain that is within the ski area boundary."
Meanwhile, a memorial service has been announced to remember Leski. A service is planned for Sat. (March 17) at the Totem Hall in Squamish. The service will start at 4 p.m. and a reception will follow at Totem Hall.
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