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

Comox author Loraine Hartley, with a few copies of her debut novel, “My Delightfully Dysfunctional Family.” Photo supplied
Comox author pens novel about life in a blended family

Generally speaking, authors write their books, then determine a title. But not… Continue reading

Police reported more than 2.2 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic offences) in 2019 within Canada- 164,784 more than in 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Crime Severity Index on the rise with the Valley, Canada: StatsCan

There were 1,450 actual incidents in the Comox Valley in 2019

Joyce Jay enjoys a moment with Georgia, her son Ed’s dog, at her Comox home. Joyce is 103 years old. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox centenarian recalls wartime Britain, moving to Canada

Joyce Jay isn’t one to shy away from adventure. She wanted to… Continue reading

The distance education program through Navigate (NIDES) has been seen some large gains in enrolment. Image, screenshot
Comox Valley school enrolment up despite fewer kids in class

Growth being driven heavily by increase in distance education numbers

The Comox Valley Airport had a recent flight arrive with a confirmed case of COVID-19. File photo
COVID-19 exposure on flight into Comox

WestJet flight 3315 from Calgary to Comox was identified with a case

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Nancy Guhl implores anyone who saw her daughter Ellie being struck by a car at a crosswalk on Lerwick Oct. 21 to contact police. File photo
Mother of girl hit by car in Courtenay seeks witnesses

The mother of a girl who was struck by a car in… Continue reading

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

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Most Read