North Shore Rescue is warning backcountry enthusiasts of "rapidly increasing avalanche hazards" on the North Shore mountains this weekend.
In a condition update on Facebook, André-Jean "AJ" Maheu, NSR’s avalanche safety officer, said two storms coming today, Dec. 18, and tomorrow, Dec. 19, are going to put the snowpack to the test.
He explains in detail in the video below that a crust – a hard layer of snow usually created by liquid freezing on or near the snow surface – that was first buried on Dec. 10 was now further down and could create problems.
“We have 30 centimetres of new snow right now, it's still snowing fairly heavily, and the forecast is for winds to increase, and also for freezing levels to rise this afternoon," said Maheu in the Facebook video update.
“So, we're very likely toward the end of the day to get a number of different avalanche problems depending on your elevation, and location.”
He said quite low down there was a risk of wet loose avalanches that have the potential to pick up a lot of mass as they come down. At higher elevations, he said there would be more of a risk of slab formations.
“You’re going to have storm slab issues that are starting to be fairly significant, and also with the winds picking up, wind slabs that are going to develop in isolated terrain featured at higher elevations.
“It's going to be a very dynamic few days, with very significant hazard.”
He said once the two storms have passed, Sunday could be a decent day.
“I suspect that we won't have to worry too much about the Dec. 10 crust after these two storms have gone by, but as of now I'm still a little bit worried about them,” said Maheu.
“I'm definitely worried about this new snow, and what it's going to do for the rest of the day and certainly into tomorrow.”
He advised checking Avalanche Canada’s ratings, but predicted they would most likely be in red for high risk.
“If you do venture in the mountains this weekend be very, very careful and please avoid any kind of avalanche terrain,” said Maheu.
Make sure to look out for Maheu's next condition update. He posts one every Friday afternoon to NSR's Facebook page. Maheu has 20 years of experience under his belt and also works as Grouse Mountain’s avalanche forecaster.
Watch the video below for AJ's full avalanche conditions update
NSR also recommends completing an Avalanche Canada weekend course and always checking avalanche conditions before heading out into the backcountry. If you’re a beginner, the appropriate course is AST 1.