'Your life is not worth that day of powder skiing': Officials warn of severe avalanche risk
Published Saturday, January 2, 2021 3:36PM PST Last Updated Saturday, January 2, 2021 6:55PM PST
VANCOUVER -- Braxton Clarke was taking an avalanche training course on Saturday at Mount Seymour when it was cut short due to bad weather.
“We got about 4 hours in and we decided to finish the class elsewhere outside maybe somewhere a little dryer,” he told CTV News.
A timely decision to make as the avalanche rating in the Sea to Sky is high at all altitudes, and in the South Coast alpine too. While the entire south coast is battered by a large storm, forcing the closure of Grouse and Mount Seymour’s ski hills.
“We’re just here to learn the fundamentals of backcountry safety,” he said, “the conditions were just brutal out there, a lot of mixed rain and snow, periods of hard rain and hard snow too.”
This has also been a deadly week in B.C.’s backcountry. On Monday two snow bikers were killed in an avalanche near Pemberton, and Thursday a backcountry skier fell into a tree well and died in the Brandywine bowl area near Whistler.
“I’m taking some time off to let the snowpack settle out,” said Whistler skier Mike Douglas, “it’s gotten really really dangerous.”
Douglas was touring earlier this week with some friends in “safe manageable terrain” when they released a slab.
“We kicked off a small slab avalanche with about a 50 cm crown,” he told CTV News, “it kind of spooked us a little bit, like wow it’s actually even more touchy out here than we thought.”
Avalanche Canada is warning this is not the time to be in the backcountry, and reminding those who want to venture out, to check forecasts before going.
“We’re on the storm track right now,” said Ilya Storm with Avalanche Canada, “in some ways the decision making is easiest right now.”
Meaning don’t go, it’s that simple. The high risk rating for an avalanche means it’s likely they’ll occur naturally, and very likely if there’s a person involved.
“It is snowing heavily, the wind is blowing, you can see it, you can see the snow accumulate and there are obvious clues out there,” he said, “snow hates rapid change. The rapid change is a person. A person on a snowmobile, a person on skis, that can be enough to tip the balance.”
Douglas said this is the time to ski in bounds.
“Your life is not worth that day of powder skiing,” he said adding the silver lining could be, “this big storm should hopefully bring down the rest of those sort of bad layers and hopefully compress that snowpack down and make it safe again.”