Avalanche season underway on Vancouver Island

The Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre is reminding backcountry skiers about the risk of avalanche.

With a snowy start to the winter and an avalanche hazard set to rise for the weekend, the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre is reminding backcountry skiers, boarders and sledders about the risk of avalanche and how to mitigate those risks.

“We’ve had a good start to our winter with about two meters of snow at tree line in the Island mountains,” says VIAC lead forecaster Jan Neuspiel. “With significantly more snow coming for the weekend we’ll see the avalanche hazard going up to Considerable and even to High just as snow lovers are heading for the mountains on their time off.”

The centre implores the public to undergo avalanche skills training and to use the Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin at islandavalanchebulletin.com.

Neuspiel, who owns the Comox Valley-based Island Alpine Guides, also stresses the importance of carrying proper gear when travelling in avalanche terrain.

“Probably the most important gear is knowledge. The place they get that is on an avalanche course. That’s going to do way more to help you mitigate risks than any other factor.”

Even a two-day introductory course will help skiers learn about and manage risks such as wind and storm slabs, he added.

“Obviously the gear is important, because you have a chance if you know how to use the gear of rescuing somebody from an avalanche should they be caught, but the idea is to avoid getting caught in the first place.”

Though there have been no local accidents so far this season, the centre has received reports of skier-triggered avalanches.

“Last weekend we had the hazard at High already on the bulletin, and it’s set to climb to that for this weekend as well,” Neuspiel said. “A lot of the rain we had down here was snow up higher…It’s probably three metres of snow in the alpine.

“All this new snow is timing perfectly with the holidays, which is always a concern with us as forecasters.”