A Special Public Avalanche Warning has been issued by Avalanche Canada for the East Kootenay as well as up in the North Rockies.

The warning is officially in effect for the South Rockies, the Lizard Range and Flathead, as well as Waterton Lakes National Park. That includes the mountain ranges west of Kimberley and Cranbrook, throughout the Elk Valley to the B.C. and Alberta border.

“This warning is in effect immediately and through the coming weekend. Avalanche Canada forecasters will reassess the situation on Monday to determine if the warning should be extended into next week.”

Avalanche Canada noted two recent fatalities in the North Rockies due to a “persistent weak layer” in the snow. One of those fatalities included the death of a local Fernie man.

MORE: Fernie man found dead following avalanche near Valemount (Feb. 25, 2021)

The same “persistent weak layer” is also suspected to have caused a near-miss incident in the South Rockies which resulted in serious injuries. Avalanche Canada said the layer is widespread throughout British Columbia but is most susceptible to being triggered by humans in the specific regions the Avalanche Warning is in effect.

MORE: Local search and rescue teams recover person trapped by avalanche (Feb. 25, 2021)

“The next wave of storms is going to make for great riding but will also increase the load on these persistent weak layers, making avalanches even easier to trigger,” explained Karl Klassen, Warning Service Manager with Avalanche Canada. “This string of fatal and serious incidents should be a wake-up call for all backcountry users, especially in the North and South Rockies. This layer is deep enough that it’s not easily seen, but large and destructive human-triggered avalanches are expected.”

All backcountry users are reminded that they should always be checking regional avalanche forecasts before they head into the alpine. Avalanche Canada said anyone and everyone in a backcountry party also needs essential rescue gear such as a transceiver, probe, and shovel, and had the knowledge of how to use them in the event of an avalanche or an emergency.