February 13, 2015 8:21 pm

Weekend avalanche danger

An avalanche in the French Alps swept seven climbers to their deaths on Tuesday and injured one other, the prefect of the Hautes-Alpes region said, raising the initial death toll.

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KELOWNA – Avalanche forecasters are warning that higher temperatures and a weak snowpack in the southern interior ranges of B.C. could result in large and destructive avalanches.

Avalanche Canada has issued a special public avalanche warning for the weekend of February 13 for the backcountry in the South Columbia, Purcells, Kootenay-Boundary, South Rockies and Lizard Range and Flathead regions.

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“We’ve had a number of recent reports of unexpectedly large avalanches in these regions,” says Senior Public Avalanche Forecaster James Floyer. “The snowpack is being affected by unseasoanbly warm temperatures. This warming is stressing weak layers buried deep in the snowpack. We are waking a sleeping dragon in some cases.”
It’s recommended recreational backcountry users stick to simple, low-angle terrain, avoid big, steep slopes, minimize exposure to overhead hazard, and re-group in safe zones away from avalanche run-outs.

“If the temperatures cool on Sunday as forecast, that will likely diminish the problem,” says Floyer. “Cooler temperatures may make it less likely that a human could trigger an avalanche but the underlying issue, a weak snowpack, remains the same. We are cautioning all backcountry users to avoid aggressive riding in alpine bowls and exposure to large runout zones over the coming weekend.”

All backcountry users must be equipped with essential avalanche safety equipment, including an avalanche transceiver, a probe and a shovel. Wearing an avalanche balloon pack can reduce the chances of burial. Experts also say it’s equally important that everyone has avalanche training and has practiced using the equipment.

For the avalanche forecast click here.

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