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Whistler Search and Rescue issues public warning after multiple avalanches cause injuries

Changing avalanche conditions likely a result of earlier rain event

The head of Whistler Search and Rescue is warning people of the changing avalanche conditions in the Sea to Sky corridor in the wake of three big slides involving backcountry users Monday.

"Things are very twitchy at the moment," cautioned Brad Sills, manager of WSAR.

"Obviously something changed very quickly here."

The three slides all happened on southerly aspects around noon and all on wind-transported snow on pencil hard slabs.

There were no fatalities in the slides but several injuries. At least slides two involved experienced backcountry travellers. All occurred Dec. 29 around midday.

One avalanche occurred in the high alpine of Tenquille Peak, north of Pemberton. Another slide, also in the Pemberton area, happened on Itsoot Mountain.

The third avalanche, a class 2.5 to 3, involved a snowmobiler in Chocolate Bowl on Powder Mountain.

"He deployed his airbag and that's what saved him," said Sills of the snowmobiler. "Without his airbag he wouldn't have survived."

Sills is urging caution in light of the three big slides as the experts look to understand what's going on with the snowpack in the area.

"We believe a lot of it has to do with the rain we had earlier in the month," said Sills.

That rain may have created an unstable layer in the snowpack, which was then loaded with more snow.

"Let's be really conservative right now in our terrain," cautioned Sills.

The Avalanche Canada centre - - has listed conditions as "moderate" in the alpine. The Whistler Blackcomb avalanche bulletin, which is produced at WB, calls conditions in the alpine "considerable."

"It's definitely possible to get avalanches especially human triggered avalanches," said James Floyer, public avalanche forecaster.

The other thing to keep in mind, he added, is the considerable variables across a large region where they may be hotspots.

"There's definitely some tricky elements to the snowpack right now,' said Floyer.

The bulletin is updated daily.

Sills also said to be aware of "shallow rocky areas."

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