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Backcountry bulletin: Waving goodbye to another winter

Avalanche Canada will issue its final public avalanche forecasts for the season on Friday
Whistler backcountry conditions peter-fitzpatrick-t1uEi0BaU7g-unsplash
After a couple of weeks of warm, dry weather, colder temps and precipitation are on the way for the Sea to Sky and B.C.'s South Coast.

Backcountry advisory, as of Wednesday, April 21:

The past week was HOT! Spring was in full effect with the cherry blossoms flowering, and trails and rocks drying up to generate epic multi-sport opportunities. If you wanted to slide on snow and were willing to climb high enough you would have found some decent turns on northerly aspects, while the southerly aspects baked in the sun. Playing in the alpine required timing your day appropriately to avoid natural avalanche activity. The region saw its fair share of avalanche activity from cornice failures, wet loose avalanches Size 1 to 3, and a large wet-slab cycle up to Size 4 last weekend.

This weekend will be different. Cooler and unsettled weather will prevail. In fact, it will feel like the polar opposite of last weekend. The region will see strong southwest wind and 10 to 20 millimetres of mixed precipitation falling as mostly rain at lower elevations and snow up high. Travel will differ at each elevation band from an isothermal mushy snowpack down low, to firm crusts and wind-hammered slopes in the alpine.  

Weak cornices exist and fresh wind slabs may be found at upper elevations that receive snow rather than rain. Lower elevations may see continued wet, loose avalanche activity in places where the rain saturates into an already isothermal snowpack unless, of course, we get that freeze. Conditions continue to be ever-changing so during these times, it’s important to watch for clues of instability like natural avalanche activity, wet snow surfaces, an increase in new snow and strong wind, and cracking or whumphing below your feet. Be aware of what’s above you at all times and practice safe group management techniques while travelling.  

We will issue our final public avalanche forecasts for the season on Friday, and we’ll transition to spring messaging next week. Feel free to check out avalanche.ca/spring-conditions to better understand some potential scenarios that could play out in your local region. On behalf of Avalanche Canada, thank you for your dedication to the Mountain Information Network and best wishes for a fantastic summer. See you next winter!