Avalanche conditions in the North Columbia are most hazardous at or below the treeline. (File Photo)

Avalanche conditions in the North Columbia are most hazardous at or below the treeline. (File Photo)

Cold weather, fresh snow make for hazardous sledding conditions

Avalanche danger level elevated at and below tree line in North Columbia area

Weeks of cold temperatures coupled with fresh snow has made for potentially hazardous sledding conditions in the Columbia region near Sicamous and Revelstoke.

“Any time we receive a significant amount of snow, 20 centimetres plus, avalanche danger starts to increase,” said Mark Bender, a senior public avalanche forecaster with Avalanche Canada.

Bender added the avalanche danger caused by the falling snow is compounded by a buried weak layer in the snow pack which has been identified as the cause of several snowmobiler and skier-triggered avalanches in recent weeks. He said weak layers are often caused by dew freezing on the surface of the snow pack during periods of clear, cold weather like the one that persisted for most of early February.

Related:One snowmobiler has been killed in avalanche in eastern B.C.

“It creates a situation much like a house of cards essentially. There are v-shaped crystals which form on the surface of the snow pack and then when snow falls on top of those, eventually the weight of the snow sitting on top of it overcomes the strength of those crystals and then releases in avalanches,” Bender said.

He said avalanche danger generally remains stable when the weather is clear and cold and then increases with new snowfall.

Bender expects the weak layer to be problematic for backcountry users regardless of how much new snow falls on top of it. He said other factors such as wind also affect the degree of avalanche danger.

Avalanche Canada posts daily avalanche danger forecasts for 20 mountainous areas in B.C. and western Alberta. Usually avalanche danger is most serious in the alpine but Bender said in the North Columbia, an area north of the stretch of Highway 1 which runs between Kamloops and Rogers Pass, the danger is elevated at and below the tree line.

In the South Columbia area, spanning Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong and the vast swath of mountains between Highways 1 and 6, avalanche danger is moderate at all elevations. Bender said with more snowfall the hazard is likely to increase.

Related:UPDATE: Dad, son killed in avalanche in southeast B.C.

Gord Bushell, general manager of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club, said danger from snow conditions can be minimized by making good choices on the mountain.

“It’s a really big concern for all of us, and everybody really has to watch out on those slopes. You basically have choices –you can make a choice to stay in the meadows and play in the deep snow and have just as much fun as climbing steep chutes and avalanche-prone areas,” he said.

The cold itself can also pose a hazard up in the mountain. Bushell said wise decisions are especially important when the temperature as low as it is. If back country users become stranded he said they must be prepared to survive until they can be rescued.

“Right now the temperatures are down here are -12, but up top they could be -25 overnight,” Bushell said.

“Your chances of surviving in -6 or -12 are a lot better than -25, so you have to make wise choices when you’re up there during the day.”

It is advised backcountry users check the daily forecast for their preferred area at www.avalanche.ca before setting out for a day in the mountains. Avalanche danger ratings are also posted at the trailheads of each area the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club manages.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Machinery could be seen working to clear land behind a pair of houses on Main Street for the future site of the Shuswap and Secwepmc Healing Centre, a medical facility on Friday, April 9. The Sicamous Fire Department has been using the buildings for training exercises ahead of their demolition. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)
Snapshot: Clearing space

Land is being cleared for a new medical centre on Sicamous’ Main Street.

Winter driving conditions returned to the Coquihalla Highway on April 10. (ICBC image)
Coquihalla motorists warned of fresh snow

Five to 10 cm of snow is expected today for the mountain highway.

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

School District 83 trustees are leaning towards an option in the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan that favours making Salmon Arm Secondary’s Sullivan campus and Jackson campus (pictured) both Grade 9-12 schools. (Google maps image)
Letter: Two high school option for Salmon Arm will create ‘have, have not’ situation

Writer concerned with E5 option, says transparent talk about implications needed

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Penticton Christian School. (Facebook)
COVID-19 exposure at South Okanagan independent school

The exposures are the latest in a quickly growing list in the Interior

Most Read