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Avalanche risk in Kootenays moderate to considerable

Although a special avalanche warning issued for parts of the Kootenays is no longer in effect, Avalanche Canada says that doesn’t mean the risk in the local backcountry has disappeared.

“While we no longer think conditions meet the criteria to warrant a targeted special warning, dangerous conditions still exist in many areas,” forecaster Ari Hanna says.

“We expect triggering large avalanches will remain possible, but the areas where they can be human triggered will become more isolated.”

Hanna says this year’s snowpack is different than previous years. Lengthy periods of cold, dry weather have created “numerous problematic” weak layers in the snowpack.

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Now that they are buried deeply, the layers can be triggered from a distance, making it hard to guess where avalanches might occur.

“There may not be strong evidence that weak layers even exist,” she says. “They’re deep enough that from the surface we’re less likely to see clues of instability.”

As a result, Hanna says avalanches could be very large and have high consequences.

While the special warning was in effect between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2, Hanna says they received consistent reports of large avalanches through the northern Kootenays and Columbia regions. They are still getting reports, only they are more sporadic now.

For most of the Kootenay-Boundary, the avalanche risk is rated as considerable in the alpine and moderate at tree line and below.

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