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Whistler backcountry advisory: avalanche hazard 'highly dynamic'

'Make travel plans that you can easily adjust '
whistler bc backcountry skiing trees
Avalanche Canada forecasters urge anyone heading into the Sea to Sky's backcountry this weekend to be flexible with their trip plans and on high alert for signs of instability.

The first weekend in February is a fickle one! The forecast on Friday calls for new snow and strong wind, Saturday may feature strong sun, and Sunday could see a rapid rise in temperature. Snow, wind, temperature, and sun are key drivers of avalanche activity, and it is possible we may see all of these ingredients in short succession over the weekend. As a result, the avalanche hazard will be dynamic and highly spatially variable, which will make it harder to extrapolate regional hazard information for local areas.

To manage the uncertainty, it will be important to verify conditions when you are travelling in the mountains this weekend to determine whether the conditions you experience are worse than expected in terms of the avalanche danger. Look for clues that there is an elevated risk of triggering avalanches. Some of these signs of instability include:

• Recent avalanche activity.
• The sound of the snow collapsing beneath you (i.e., “whumpfs”) or shooting cracks that appear in the snow from under your equipment or feet.
• Signs of rapid warming, like snow shedding from trees and snow pinwheeling or snowballing down slopes.

The wide range of conditions forecast for this one weekend provide an ideal opportunity to step up your trip planning approach. Make travel plans that you can easily adjust when your observations in the field suggest the hazard is worse than expected. If conditions are worse than forecast, make sure you’re ready for these three options:

• Back off your initial trip plan and switch to your simpler Plan B.
• Abort the trip.
• Continue with the trip, but make ongoing observations and exercise greater caution.

As always, be sure to track the forecasts and advice at avalanche.ca to get the most up-to-date information on how the weekend will play out.