Human-caused avalanches expected this weekend

VANCOUVER — Avalanche forecasters are strongly urging skiers and snowmobilers across British Columbia to resist the lure of new snow and sunshine over the coming weekend, warning that what appear to be inviting backcountry conditions are only surface deep.

VANCOUVER — Avalanche forecasters are strongly urging skiers and snowmobilers across British Columbia to resist the lure of new snow and sunshine over the coming weekend, warning that what appear to be inviting backcountry conditions are only surface deep.

Below the fresh powder rests a legion of weak snow layers that have stacked up during the past month, says Karl Klassen of the Canadian Avalanche Centre, creating a hidden danger that could unleash a tumult of deadly avalanches under the weight of backcountry enthusiasts.

Those dangerous conditions — similar to those that preceded deadly avalanches in previous years — prompted the avalanche centre to issue a special bulletin Thursday that applies to a large swath of B.C.’s pristine backcountry.

The province has so far enjoyed a lower-than-average number of avalanche fatalities this season, but Klassen said that could soon change.

“It’s going to be a very tricky weekend,” Klassen said in an interview from the Revelstoke, B.C.-based avalanche centre.

“These are the kinds of conditions that often catch people by surprise, even experienced people.”

The sweeping warning applies to the Cariboos, the North and South Columbias, the North and South Rockies, the Lizard Range, the Purcells, the South Coast Inland and Northwest Inland from Friday to Monday. Not included are the area north of Vancouver to Whistler, B.C., and the North Coast mountains in the Terrace area.

Skiers and snowmobilers should stick to controlled ski areas, said Klassen.

If they do choose to venture further afield, they should only go out with someone who has extensive local knowledge and training — and not forget to tote a shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver.

Over recent days, skiers have reported to the avalanche centre that they’ve been forced off backcountry slopes as large, natural slides have thundered down, said Klassen.

Klassen said before now, the risk would have appeared obvious to experienced skiers and snowmobilers venturing into the backcountry, but he said the fresh snowfall may hide that risk.

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