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Special avalanche warning issued for Banff, Yoho, Kootenay national parks

Avalanche experts say there have been several close calls reported recently, with many large avalanches running the full extent of their paths.
Avalanche Canada

BANFF – Dangerous avalanche conditions have prompted a special avalanche warning for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

In partnership with Parks Canada, Avalanche Canada issued the warning which also includes the North and South Columbia Mountains, the Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, as well as an area within the Sea-to-Sky and South Coast Inland regions, from Squamish to Pemberton.

Avalanche experts say there have been several close calls reported recently, with many large avalanches running the full extent of their paths.

And they say warm temperatures and lots of sunshine are expected for the coming weekend, which will have a destabilizing effect on the snowpack.

“There are persistent weak layers in the mountain snowpack across most of southern B.C. and western Alberta,” said James Floyer, forecasting program supervisor for Avalanche Canada in a news release.

“This special warning targets regions where these layers have proven to be an issue. The combination of this snowpack structure and higher temperatures will make natural and human-triggered avalanches much more likely.”

For now, this special avalanche warning will remain in effect until the end of Monday, Jan. 24.

Floyer said there is a lot of uncertainty with these weak layers.

“While we have targeted an area where we think there is a higher risk of triggering these deep weak layers, we also urge backcountry users in adjacent regions to exercise caution during this warming period,” he said.

In Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, the avalanche danger was rated considerable in the alpine, at treeline and below treeline on Thursday, Jan. 20.

The Parks Canada bulletin, which was posted Jan. 19 and described conditions as tricky with variability throughout the region, said there were “alarming sudden results” on the December crust in Kootenay on Wednesday.

“Several natural and explosive triggered avalanches over the past few days ... with more wind on the way to load slopes,” states the bulletin.

Backcountry users are reminded to always check their regional avalanche forecasts at www.avalanche.ca. Everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential rescue gear – transceiver, probe, and shovel – and the knowledge to use it.