'Not the weekend to be in the backcountry': Avalanche warning issued over unusual conditions on the North Shore
Whistler avalanche forecaster Wayne Flann told CTV News "there's been a lot of activity" in the Cowboy Ridge area lately. This photo shows an avalanche that was triggered Thursday. (Wayne Flann)
VANCOUVER -- Avalanche Canada is urging people to stay out of the backcountry on the North Shore mountains this weekend due to dangerous snow conditions that prompted a special avalanche warning for the South Coast.
The snowpack on the North Shore is being called “highly unusual,” with a widespread weak layer buried by snow, which the agency says is a problem not usually found in Metro Vancouver’s warmer climate.
“It’s very slippery and avalanches are running on it and they’re running fast on that crust,” Grant Helgesen with Avalanche Canada told CTV News Thursday.
Avalanche forecasters have been actively monitoring the snowpack.
"The danger comes that we have a big South Coast storm coming this weekend which is going to add further load to our snowpack," Helgeson said. "That’s going to bring the avalanche danger up, and we may even see some natural avalanches."
He says anyone thinking about ducking a rope into an out-of-bounds area or heading into backcountry this weekend simply shouldn’t.
“This is not the weekend to be in the backcountry,” Helgesen said, noting forecasters saw skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers unprepared for the backcountry conditions in Cypress Provincial Park on Thursday.
The avalanche danger for the South Coast was listed as considerable on Friday, but is expected to be upgraded to high by Saturday, with Avalanche Canada noting the widespread weak later has already been responsible for numerous avalanches.
There was already one close call near Cypress this week.
On Tuesday, a snowboarder had to be rescued in the backcountry after triggering a small avalanche that left him injured and buried to his waist.
North Shore Rescue volunteers had to work carefully to bring him to safety because of the dangerous backcountry conditions.
The avalanche warning is expected to remain in effect through the weekend, with conditions being re-assessed on Monday.