Avalanche danger extreme 

Forecaster warns not to go near the backcountry

The weather that has been drenching Whistler this week has made the area so prone to avalanches that the backcountry should be off limits because there is a strong possibility there could be some peak-to-valley slides.

So says Whistler Mountain avalanche forecaster Jan Tindle who confirmed that there were several weak layers of snow on the mountains that could result in some "full depth releases."

Tindle said the "traditionally safe" access roads were no longer safe.

"People don’t expect avalanches starting 2,000 feet up in the peaks to reach them on the roads, but this is what could happen in the climate we’re in now," Tindle said Tuesday.

"If you’re going into the backcountry then you’re crazy because there could be some huge avalanches up high that run full path, which means they run down to the very bottom of traditional slide paths."

Tindle said there was a possibility there could be some slides in-bounds.

"In the alpine there is a possibility it could happen in the ski area, but not in an area where we’re allowing people to go right now."

Tindle said avalanches cross the Duffey Lake Road during most winter seasons but with the conditions the way they are, there could be avalanches sliding along some routes which cross several backcountry roads.

"Not even the traditional routes are safe… I wouldn’t go anywhere near the mountains (out of bounds)."

Tindle encouraged everyone to keep themselves up to date with the conditions by checking weather websites or by calling the snow phone.

"We have some weak layers that built up with the cold weather," she said. "Those weak layers have been getting some big loads on them, which is for the most part snow. And now some of the snow is getting rain on it, which is just making it heavier.

"When the weak layers are unable to support the load they’re likely to slide."

There have been several avalanches around North America during the past month, most notably in Utah where one person was killed by a massive slide near Park City Resort.

Seven people have been killed in Utah avalanches so far this winter – more than in any other year since the state started keeping records in 1951, reports MSNBC.

Tindle conceded the avalanches happening elsewhere had alarmed local forecasters because the conditions have been similar to those in Whistler now.

"I know the guys with the (avalanche) dogs in Utah and it’s pretty scary because that’s the same kind of snow pack we have here.

"We don’t have the loads of snow on top of it (like they did in Utah). But if we were to get 10 days of snowfall here then we’d be in the same situation."

The Whistler-Blackcomb Snowphone is 604-932-4211 and the backcountry advisory line is 604-938-7676. The link to the W-B avalanche and backcountry advisory Web site is: http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/weather/advisory/index.htm

The Canadian Avalanche Association’s link to their South Coast public avalanche bulletin, which encompasses Whistler, is: http://www.avalanche.ca/default.aspx?DN=5,4,3,Documents

Environment Canada’s weather site for Whistler can be found at http://weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/forecast/city_e.html?WAE.

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