Children make their way up a closed Whistler Mountain to toboggan in Whistler, B.C. Sunday, March 15, 2020. An Avalanche Canada snow expert says a recent cold snap followed by snowfall in British Columbia’s south coastal region has resulted in unusual and tricky conditions in mountain areas frequented by back country enthusiasts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Children make their way up a closed Whistler Mountain to toboggan in Whistler, B.C. Sunday, March 15, 2020. An Avalanche Canada snow expert says a recent cold snap followed by snowfall in British Columbia’s south coastal region has resulted in unusual and tricky conditions in mountain areas frequented by back country enthusiasts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Whistler-area avalanche conditions ‘tricky,’ says expert after two recent deaths

Cold weather and snow created a snow pack with an upper layer similar to a sugar crust that breaks off easily

Cold winds followed by snowfall in British Columbia’s south coastal region has produced unusual and tricky avalanche conditions in mountain areas frequented by backcountry enthusiasts, says an Avalanche Canada spokesman.

The frigid winds from the north and east last week and the weekend’s snowfall created unstable slabs of snow that are not bonding well with mountain surfaces, especially in the Whistler area, Ilya Storm said Monday.

“Conditions are not typical for this part of B.C.,” Storm said in an interview from Revelstoke. “The snowpack structure is not typical. The location of the problems in the terrain are different. People should be going out with some extra caution over the next little while because we don’t think this is going to heal very quickly.”

Whistler RCMP reported two deaths and several injuries after skiers and snowboarders were caught in separate avalanches in the Blackcomb Glacier and Brandywine Bowl areas.

Police said Saturday they responded to four serious search and rescue calls and asked skiers and snowboarders to avoid the backcountry.

Storm said the cold weather and snow created a snow pack with an upper layer similar to a sugar crust that breaks off easily.

“The picture I’m painting right now is one of tricky conditions,” he said. “It’s consistent with the idea that the snowpack structure and the conditions in the mountains are unusual, tricky and quite potentially surprising.”

People can still head into the wilderness, but must be cautious and know the area they are visiting, Storm said.

“It’s a time to be really cautious because conditions are quite likely not what people are used to in the south coast area,” he said. “There’s a reason why we say anybody who goes into the mountains should have an avalanche course, should have some training and should have the gear and know how to use it.”

The Avalanche Canada website lists the avalanche danger for Tuesday in the alpine zones in the Sea-to-Sky region as considerable, meaning dangerous conditions are present and human-caused avalanches are likely.

“If you don’t have that (avalanche) education and experience then you shouldn’t go into the mountains,” said Storm. “You should be staying in bounds in ski areas.”

READ MORE: Dangerous conditions in Whistler area mountains lead to 2nd death in 2 days

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Whistler

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

Just Posted

Gregory Ould, co-founder and executive director of Blanket BC, drops off warming blankets to Our Home on Eighth shelter in Port Alberni during a tour of Vancouver Island on Feb. 19, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Blanket BC delivers warmth, hope to Vancouver Island’s homeless

Gregory Ould donated blankets, toques in five communities

Construction takes place on Bamfield Main in early February 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS)
Closures planned for Bamfield Road

Construction by Mosaic unrelated to $30M upgrade

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The Alberni Valley’s Emergency Operations Centre is located around the corner and below the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District tests new mobile alert system

Residents can still sign up for free Voyent Alert! emergency messaging

Crews respond to a structure fire in the 6000 block of Renton Road in Cherry Creek on Saturday, Feb. 27. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Workshop destroyed in Cherry Creek fire

Crews stayed on scene overnight fighting ‘stubborn’ blaze

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read