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High avalanche danger leading into weekend

Changing conditions likely
northern rockies avalanche region_12156_avalanche.ca
Avalanche Canada has issued a HIGH rating for its Northern Rockies forecast region.

With a forecast for significant snow, Avalanche Canada has upgraded the avalanche danger for its Northern Rockies forecast region to high for the coming weekend.

Already raised to that level a few times this winter, forecaster Mike Conlan says the high rating is usually put into place when there's a sign of fairly substantial stormy weather on the way.

The designation covers an area from the Williston region in the north to Tête Jaune Cache in the south and from Tumbler Ridge west to Highway 97.

"From what we can see from the weather forecast and talking to the Meteorological Service of Canada, it looks like the region could see anywhere from 30 to upwards of 80 cm of snow by the end of Saturday, says Conlan. "So, this is going to rapidly deteriorate avalanche conditions and increase the danger."

Conlan believes the added layer of snow will easily impact the existing snow pack.

"In openings at the treeline and below the treeline, there's the potential for a weak layer to exist. So as this snow comes in, it's going to load that weak layer, and it could be the tipping point where we start to see large avalanches occur."

An added concern, Conlan points out, is a forecasted warm up to plus temperatures beginning Saturday. 

"With the formation of new storm slabs and new winds slabs, and warming air, there's the added potential of triggering of slides by (snowmobile) riders this weekend."

For terrain listed under a high rating, as it will be this weekend, Avalanche Canada's recommendation is not to travel into the area, particularly, as Conlan points out, below the treeline where there may be hidden dangers around cut blocks and burns.