While outdoor enthusiasts might want to take a hike as the weather warms up, an imminent avalanche danger lingers for those exploring Vancouver Island’s alpine backcountry, officials warn.
Effective immediately, a Special Public Avalanche Warning (SPAW) has been issued in the wake of the warming weather across the province which includes mountainous parts of Vancouver Island.
The joint statement issued by Avalanche Canada, Parks Canada, Kananaskis Country, and the province is warning recreational backcountry users to practice extreme caution.
An area from Lake Cowichan spanning most of the North Island and the northwest coast has been highlighted as having “considerable” risk.
Those planning to head into the flagged region are being advised to “leave a wide margin for error during this warming period, stick to simple, low-angle terrain, and avoid all overhead avalanche hazards.”
Authorities are calling the sudden spike in temperature a “dramatic increase” and are expecting the shift to destabilize the snowpack, potentially leading to dangerous and destructive avalanches.
Due to the nature of these conditions, authorities from the joint statement are anticipating these avalanches to be very large with the potential to make their way into valley bottoms.
“Regions with persistent or deep persistent slab avalanche problems will be especially problematic, with avalanches potentially involving the full depth of the snowpack,” said Mike Conlan, a senior avalanche forecaster with Avalanche Canada.
The SPAW is expected to last until Monday, May 1.
“We cannot stress the importance of this avalanche warning enough,” said Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. “I urge everyone considering heading into the backcountry to take seriously the advice of Avalanche Canada.”
“Sadly, 14 people have lost their lives to avalanches in B.C. this year—many of whom were extremely experienced,” she added.
Many other parts of the province are at an elevated risk. Currently, Whistler and surrounding areas remain under Avalanche Canada’s danger rating of four, the second highest risk there is.