Avalanche Canada advising backcountry enthusiasts reacquaint themselves with proper avalanche safety training and eqipment as winter season begins. Wikipedia photo

Forecasters promote avalanche safety awareness to kick off season

Avalanche Canada advising backcountry enthusiasts to get proper training and equipment.

As the season moves into winter, the backcountry becomes a paradise for adventure-seekers looking to enjoy all that the local mountain ranges have to offer.

However, it’s also time to get smart about the dangers of avalanches.

Avalanche Canada is set to begin daily avalanche forecasts next week, however, given the early arrival of snow, forecasters are telling the public to get the proper safety training and equipment and be aware of conditions before heading out into the backcountry.

Snowfall depth and quality is currently inconsistent in various parts of the region, depending on how high the elevations are, says Grant Helgeson, a forecaster with Avalanche Canada.

“That tells us a couple things,” he said. “One, it’s incredibly spatially variable right now. Two, it’s a lot of work on your skis, sled or snowshoes to actually get up high to the places that we want to ride.

WATCH: Inside an avalanche

“The other side of that, is as we chase that snow up into the higher terrain, we’re actually going right to where any early season avalanche problems exist because if there is enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide.”

The beginning of winter can mean consistent freeze-thaw cycles as the season slowly shifts to colder weather.

That can help set up the mountain terrain for a nice base of snow, Helgeson said.

“You take all that loose powder show and you give it a few freeze-thaw cycles and it shrinks, it gets shorter, it gets denser, and that can really be a nice base,” he said. “But we often look at the freeze-thaw from the valley location, and that freeze-thaw might actually not be occurring in the upper elevations.

“I think in some places it can remain quite cold and windy with a decent amount of snow, say 40-70 centimetres to push around into fresh wind slabs.”

Below the treeline, the freeze-thaw cycle helps to establish the snowpack, however, up in the alpine region, all bets are off.

Getting reacquainted with proper safety procedures and training with the right equipment will help prevent any backcountry mishaps, Helgeson added.

“One thing that happens early seasons, is down low it’s easy for us to get complacent,” he said. “It’s difficult to remember to even turn your transceiver on when you’re standing on dirt at the valley bottom.

Helgeson recommends that backcountry users take the time to learn how to properly work the transceiver and put in fresh batteries and also inspect your shovel and snow probe.

“Then start to think about that, start to think about what you’d do in an avalanche rescue,” Helgeson said.

Taking an Avalanche Skills Training Level One course at the beginning of the season is a great way to get grounded in the proper procedures and safety protocols surrounding avalanche danger, Helgeson said.

Helgeson also encourages backcountry users to submit information and snow conditions to the Mountain Information Network on the Avalanche Canada website. He says users won’t be obligated to give up their secret specific recreation locations, but any information, including pictures, would be helpful to forecasters.

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

Just Posted

Isaiah Therrien skates down the ice with the Port Hardy Bantam Hawks. (Nicki Ranger photo)
Port Hardy Minor Hockey aims to grow amidst COVID-19 pandemic

‘As a parent, I’m just excited my son’s getting a chance to play’

BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition holding in Port Hardy while technicians repair the S-radar. The sailing was delayed by two days, leaving passengers stranded. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Northern Expedition rescheduled to sail for Bella Bella, Prince Rupert after mechanical issues

The S-radar malfunctioned twice, causing a two-day delay in Port Hardy

RCMP officer Chris Voller was honoured at a gathering hosted by Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw members. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Officer Chris Voller says farewell to the North Island

“One of the biggest impacts you can have is having a pre-existing relationship with an individual.”

Adam Ireton holds his son Weston, along with Kristen and Beckett as they celebrate Weston's last day of treatment for lukemia. (Kristen Ireton photo)
799 days: ‘Super’ Weston defeats cancer

‘Weston is disease-free now, so we will be going into a period of checkups and things until he’s 18’

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read