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North Rockies Avalanche Forecast - March 5, 2021

We're heading into a period of warming and its effects are uncertain. Expect stability to deteriorate over the day as the snowpack heats up. The east slope of the region could see the greatest impact.
North Rockies Avalanche

We're heading into a period of warming and its effects are uncertain. Expect stability to deteriorate over the day as the snowpack heats up. The east slope of the region could see the greatest impact.

Friday

Alpine - Considerable
Treeline - Considerable
Below treeline - Moderate

Saturday

Alpine - Considerable
Treeline - Moderate
Below treeline - Moderate

Avalanche Summary

The weekend and early part of this week was an active period for avalanches in the region. Some highlights include:

-Monday's explosives control yielding numerous wind slab avalanches, generally size 2-3 (large to very large).

-A widespread natural avalanche cycle to size 3 in the Table River and Sentinel Pass areas, also observed on Monday.

-A size 3 natural persistent slab triggered by a wind slab release in Pass Creek, snapping trees in its path.

-This MIN report from Sunday showing a widespread touchy 25cm storm slab interface avalanching on anything over 30 degrees in the Pine Pass area.

-3 natural avalanches, the largest likely near size 3 burying the Alberta side Kakwa trail, near Kakwa Lake

Looking forward, we are heading a period of warming that should be a couple notches greater than what we saw on Monday. In some areas, high freezing levels will be amplified by strong sunshine. Over the next few days, backcountry travelers will need to manage a mix of lingering, large wind slabs, wet loose avalanches, and an uncertain persistent slab problem that hasn't been conclusively laid to rest by recent weather, especially on the east slope.

Snowpack Summary


We have variable new snow totals from the weekend of up to 90 cm in Pine Pass, 50-70 cm in Sentinel Pass, 60 cm in Renshaw (including a pulse prior to the weekend), 70 cm over the previous crust in Torpy, and a less impressive (estimated) 25 cm in the Core Lodge area. Kakwa seems closer to a 5-day 30 cm. This snow has undergone significant transformation from strong south winds in exposed areas and from freezing levels reaching about 1600 metres on Monday.

We now have roughly 90-110 cm overlying a weak layer of faceted snow (and potentially surface hoar) from mid February, as well as another especially problematic, slightly deeper, widespread persistent weak layer from late January/early February that consists of surface hoar. This layer is now about 120-160 cm deep in some of our snowfall hotspots. It is most prevalent around treeline elevations, but likely reaches into the alpine and in openings below treeline too. These layers are both significantly shallower in the east of the region.

A couple of point observations from Torpy and Bijoux on Monday and Tuesday are beginning to suggest a scenario where a combination of natural avalanche activity, melt-freeze cycles, and the massive weight of our recent storm snow has done a great deal to either flush out or stabilize our persistent slab problems in the west of the region (think Pine Pass to Renshaw) The situation is less certain on the east slope, where significantly less storm snow likely leaves these problems within the reach of human triggering, with a bit of added consequence from their increased depth.

Weather Forecast

FRIDAY - Mainly cloudy with flurries increasing in the afternoon. Moderate to strong south winds shifting southwest. Alpine high temperatures around -2 with freezing levels to about 1700 metres.

SATURDAY - Cloudy then clearing, with 5-15 cm of new snow from the overnight period. Moderate southwest winds. Alpine high temperatures around -7 with freezing levels back to about 1400 metres.

Travel and Terrain Advice

  • Avoid freshly wind loaded terrain features.
  • Watch for areas of hard wind slab on alpine features.
  • If triggered, wind slabs avalanches may step down to deeper layers resulting in larger avalanches.
  • Avoid sun exposed slopes, especially if snow surface is moist or wet.