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B.C., Alberta backcountry users warned about high avalanche threat

Saturday, January 22nd 2022, 8:52 am - Avalanche Canada's special public avalanche warning stays in place this weekend as warming temperatures threaten to make the snowpack unstable.

After weeks of back-to-back storms and consistent cold weather across much of Western Canada to start this winter, a pattern change has finally allowed for the influence of milder Pacific air to reassert itself across the region.

Waves of milder air and soaring freezing levels, however, prompted a special avalanche warning in several regions of B.C. and Alberta for this weekend. Avalanche Canada issued the alert, which will remain in effect until Monday.

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"These milder conditions and sunshine that we are expecting this weekend will act to destabilize the snowpack, leading to an increased risk for avalanches across the region," says Michael Carter a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

The warning is in effect for the North and South Columbias, Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, and Glacier, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. It also covers B.C.'s Sea-to-Sky region and South Coast Inland area from Squamish to Pemberton.

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"There are persistent weak layers in the mountain snowpack across most of southern B.C. and western Alberta," explains James Floyer, Forecasting Program Supervisor for Avalanche Canada. "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."

WILDFIRES CAN RAISE AVALANCHE RISK AFTER THE LANDSCAPE IS ALTERED

Floyer adds that there is a lot of uncertainty with these weak layers, and backcountry users are urged to exercise extreme caution during a warming period like this one.

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According to Avalanche Canada, everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential rescue gear -- transceiver, probe, and shovel -- and the knowledge to use it.

Thumbnail courtesy of Getty Images.

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