North Rockies Avalanche Forecast - Feb. 18, 2020

60 - 120 cm of storm snow in the last week and surprisingly little avalanche activity, the sun may change that when it makes it's full appearance on Wednesday. Fat wind loaded features in wind exposed terrain remain suspect, and buried surface hoar at treeline is also a concern.

The North Rockies region encompasses the Rocky Mountains from Highway 16 in the south to Hudson's Hope in the north, spanning the BC-Alberta border. 

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Alpine - Considerable
Treeline - Considerable

Below treeline - Moderate


Alpine - Considerable
Treeline - Considerable

Below treeline - Moderate


Alpine - Considerable

Treeline - Moderate
Below treeline - Moderate

Avalanche Summary

Surprisingly little avalanche activity has been reported. On Sunday explosive control work produced small avalanches running in the upper 20 cm of storm snow.

Snowpack Summary

The weekend storm added 10 to 25 cm of snow to the phenomenal snowfall last week where the wed/thur/fri storm produced 50 (Kakwa) to 100 (Torpy) cm of storm snow under mild temperatures and moderate wind from the south, southwest and southeast. Most of the observations we're seeing suggest that the copious amount of storm snow arrived warm and is settling well in the cooler recent temperatures. The storm snow reportedly has very little slab property, but we're short on observations from more wind effected terrain. This MIN from the Renshaw on Saturday really tells the story.

Last week easy sudden planar shears and widespread storm slabs were observed. The presence of buried surface hoar about 40 to 60 cm below the surface has been confirmed in the Pine Pass, Torpy & Renshaw zones, it may be more widespread throughout the region too.

Below all the recent storm snow there is a thin rain crust from the warm, wet storm on Feb 01. This rain crust has been reported to exist up to treeline elevations around 1700 m. Initially this layer was described as reactive and was the focus of a number of avalanches but no recent activity involving this crust has been reported.

Deep in the the mid-pack there may still be a layer of surface hoar buried in late December. It's gaining strength, but should remain a concern since snowpack tests still demonstrate this layer has the potential to slide, albeit in isolated areas and/or with very large triggers. 

Weather Forecast

The forecast period is filled with plenty of sun and wind for the foreseeable future.

MONDAY NIGHT: Light to moderate northwest wind, freezing level at valley bottom, no significant precipitation expected.

TUESDAY: Scattered cloud cover at dawn clearing to just a few clouds in the afternoon, moderate northwest wind, freezing level at valley bottom, no significant precipitation expected.

WEDNESDAY: Clear skies, moderate southwest wind, freezing level rising to about 1300 m, no significant precipitation expected.

THURSDAY: Clear skies at dawn with some cloud building in the afternoon, strong southwest wind, freezing level rising to about 1300 m, no significant precipitation expected.

Travel and Terrain Advice

  • Avoid exposure to steep, sun exposed slopes, especially when the solar radiation is strong.
  • Avoid freshly wind loaded features, especially near ridge crests, roll-overs and in steep terrain.
  • Cornice failure may trigger large avalanches.
  • Be aware of the potential for remote triggering and large, deep avalanches due to the presence of buried surface hoar.
A map of the North Rockies. - Avalanche Canada image
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