Central Okanagan Search and Rescue volunteers conduct a recent search through the snow. —Image: Facebook/COSAR

Avalanche danger climbs to high for Okanagan

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue warn against travel into the backcountry

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue is advising the public to stay out of the backcountry due to rapidly changing snow conditions and the danger of avalanche.

Dave Crawford, COSAR search manager, said Tuesday warming weather is creating a danger and he is not recommending travel in the backcountry due to the changing conditions.

The Okanagan’s snowpack is currently sitting at 123 per cent of normal, according to the latest figures from the BC River Forecast Centre.

“It’s very scary right now,” said Crawford. “Snowpacks don’t like change and we’ve seen a lot of change in the past few weeks. We’ve seen a cooling trend followed by snowfall and then followed by warming trends.”

According to Avalanche Canada, conditions in mid-level treeline areas of the Kootenay-Boundary region—which includes the Okanagan—were rated as a 4, or high, on the danger index Tuesday.

That rating is described as very high avalanche condition. Travel is not recommended, there is a likelihood of natural avalanches and human-triggered avalanches are very likely. Large avalanches could occur in many areas and very large ones in specific areas.

The high-level alpine and low-level below treeline areas were rated at 3, or considerable, in terms of avalanche danger.

That rating is described as dangerous conditions and the need for cautious snowpack evaluation. Natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered ones likely. Small avalanches could occur in many areas and large ones in isolated areas.

Related story: Kelowna snowmobilers thankful to be safe

“If you are not trained and experienced in the backcountry, it may be best not to go,” said Crawford.

“You want to avoid avalanche terrain entirely. The potential is increasing for large avalanches at all elevations and the triggers are getting more and more sensitive.”

He said when conditions are this sensitive, snow can slide on its own, just under its own weight.

“So a skier or a loud noise can start an avalanche,” he said.

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