A week of warm winter weather has brought out many people to Kananaskis Country eager to make up for lost time after the recent cold snaps across the province. But with the change in weather comes avalanche concerns.
Alberta Parks hosted its annual Avalanche Awareness Day at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Sunday. The event is a chance for people to learn about the proper use of probes and transceivers, watch rescue dog demonstrations and learn how to analyze the changing snow pack.
“I do a lot of travelling and avalanche concerns are always there this time of year so the more information the better,” said Dave Eadie who attended at the event. “And to have it out in a practical situation like today is just fantastic.”
The risk is rated “considerable”now in alpine and tree line areas with the recent snow and wind creating a slab layer that safety specialists are tracking. The rapid weather changes this season have ranged from rain to extreme cold. It’s a complex mix of layers which experts are keeping a close eye on.
“We have a bunch of layers that were dropped down earlier in the season in October and November and those are layers we are keeping track of and sometimes what happens, there might be a layer somewhere down in the snow pack that won’t be a concern at the present time but it is something we are tracking and as time goes on that layer will become more of a concern,” said Mike Olsthoorn, a public safety specialist with Alberta Parks.
There has already been one fatality in 2018. A 36-year-old Calgary man was killed while backcountry skiing near Fernie, B.C., on Jan. 8. RCMP say the slide was triggered by skiers. Experts warn that in 90 per cent of incidents, the victim or someone in the victim’s party causes the snow slide.
“Every year is different. We have had some incidents this year with people being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Olsthoorn.
“But I think that education is helping a lot in terms of having these Avalanche Awareness Days and getting the message out to people to really look at the avalanche bulletin and get training before they go out. But unfortunately every year something happens.”
Avalanche.ca has daily updates on avalanche risk.