North Rockies Avalanche Forecast - Jan. 15, 2020

Wind slabs may remain sensitive to human triggering, especially in steep features near ridge crest. Although unlikely, buried Surface Hoar could produce very large destructive avalanches. This weak layer is most prevalent in the south, especially in the Torpy/McGregor zone.

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 - Moderate

Treeline - Moderate

Below treeline - Low


Alpine - Moderate

Treeline - Moderate

Below treeline - Low


Alpine - Moderate

Treeline - Moderate

Below treeline - Low

Avalanche Summary

Control work on Tuesday produced one size 2 avalanche on a southwest facing feature around 1400 m in the Pine Pass zone.

Also on Tuesday, a natural size 2 persistent slab avalanche was observed on a south facing slope around 1750 m in the mountains near Crescent Spur, this avalanche is suspected to have failed on the late December Surface Hoar.

Ongoing cold temperatures are likely tempering avalanche activity.

The latest report of avalanche activity on the surface hoar layer described in the snowpack summary was from January 9. It occurred near the McGregors on a southerly aspect at 1500 m, there's also a great visual of this kind of activity from January 10th in the Torpy on the PGBCSki FB page. 

Snowpack Summary

Around 20 to 50 cm of storm snow has accumulated since late last week. This has created soft surface conditions in sheltered terrain but strong wind has redistributed the snow in exposed terrain, forming wind slabs. The wind changed directions from southwest to northeast over the weekend, meaning that wind-affected snow and wind slabs may be found on all aspects at and above treeline.

A weak layer of feathery surface hoar buried in late December remains a concern. The layer has been found across much of the North Rockies region, but it has only become a problem in particular areas, such as around McBride and the McGregors/Torpy. It seems to be most prevalent in sheltered treeline features 50 to 150 cm below the surface. 

Weather Forecast

It should warm up *slightly* this weekend but the forecast is largely made up of colder than average temperatures, mainly cloudy skies and a few dribbs/drabbs of snow.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Alpine temperature -36° C, strong east/southeast wind, trace of snow possible.

THURSDAY: Broken cloud cover, alpine temperature -30° C, strong east/southeast wind, most of the region should only get a trace of snow but the Torpy and western side of the Kakwa could see as much as 15 cm of snow with the Renshaw picking up 5 to 10 cm of new snow.

FRIDAY: Broken cloud cover at dawn clearing throughout the day, alpine temperature rising to -17° C, light variable wind at most elevations with moderate southwest wind at ridgetop, no significant precipitation expected.

SATURDAY: A few clouds at dawn building to broken cloud cover by sunset, alpine temperature rising to -10° C, moderate to strong wind generally out of the south, trace of snow possible.

Travel and Terrain Advice


  • Recent wind has varied in direction so watch for wind slabs on all aspects.

  • Watch for newly formed and reactive wind slabs as you transition into wind affected terrain.

  • Back off if you encounter whumpfing, hollow sounds, or shooting cracks.

  • Avoid convexities as well as steep, open and/or sparsely treed slopes at and below treeline.

A map of the North Rockies. - Avalanche Canada image
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