Friday, 26 January 2018 05:04

Avalanche Canada gives fair warning to adventurers

Written by  Demi Knight
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The South Rockies field team (from Avalanche Canada) are out doing snowpack tests and snow profiles in the field. Where the information they gather help make the daily avalanche forecast for the South Rockies and the Lizard Range/Flathead regions. The South Rockies field team (from Avalanche Canada) are out doing snowpack tests and snow profiles in the field. Where the information they gather help make the daily avalanche forecast for the South Rockies and the Lizard Range/Flathead regions. Jen Coulter

With the Rocky Mountains blazing through southern Alberta, standing strong and bordering provinces, they have become a home to travellers for sports, hiking, recreation and risk takers alike to visit throughout the year.


However, as well as fresh mountainous air, beautiful vistas and trails galore, the Back Country can also be home to some drastic weather and dangerous situations, that Avalanche Canada encourages every mountain lover to be aware of before venturing up into their heavens.
“Avalanche hazards go up and down in mountainous areas throughout the winter months,” says James Floyer, Forecasting Program Supervisor for Avalanche Canada.
“There’s more to the process of judging the possibility of avalanches than just tracking storms. Along with tracking the wind and storm patterns, we frequently test land structures in the snowpack for weakness.”
For many regions that see increased human activity such as the South Rockies and Lizard Range and Flathead, the weakness in snowpacks have become a main trigger for avalanche warnings to be set in place. This is due to weak layers getting buried then carrying significant weight causing the risk of fast moving snow to raise.
“When those weak layers get buried in the region of forty to one-hundred centimetres then they can often become very sensitive to human triggering and the possibility of someone on a sled or skis would have sufficient weight to fracture that weak layer and potentially release that slab to cause an avalanche,” says Floyer or why these human triggered avalanches are just as concerning as storm triggered ones.
However, Avalanche Canada does extensive research within these mountainous landscapes to constantly assess the risks of avalanches as well as release updated forecasts on their websites that they recommend back-country users check before heading into the high ranges.
Floyer also added that beyond being informed of avalanche forecasting in prospective regions they may want to visit, back-country goers can also use other measures to ensure their safety when engaging in activities on the mountains such as owning the correct equipment, participating in safety classes and following simple instructions.
“Being prepared means getting the information you need before you go, you should also carry the right rescue equipment and know how to use it because that can really help to save lives,” says Floyer.
“People also need to make sure they ride in a way that is minimizing exposure to weak layers. For example, only having one-person riding avalanche terrain at a time so it gives more opportunity to rescue and less pressure on the area.”
Avalanche courses are also available and recommended to those wanting to spend a lot of time in the mountains engaging in recreational activities.
With the winter months in full effect, January has had multiple avalanche warnings in different areas of the country including the South Rockies, Glacier National Park and the Cariboos and the Kootenay boundary.
With many mountain ranges seeing these avalanche warnings around this time of the year, Floyer went on to say that Avalanche Canada Forecasters work around the clock to provide daily updates on specific regions prone to seeing higher avalanche risks due to storm and human activity and suggest all those wanting to visit these areas check these updates online at https://www.avalanche.ca

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