The risk of a large and destructive avalanche is high this weekend, prompting a member of Kamloops Search and Rescue to warn people against taking unnecessary chances in the backcountry.
Mike Ritcey said there’s a lot of sledders and snowmobiliers out at this time of year and they need to be careful.
“Heed the warning. They (avalanche forecasters) know what they are talking about,” he said.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre issued the warning Friday afternoon. Forecaster Joe Lammers said the danger rating is considered at high in the region’s mountain ranges and outdoor adventurers need to be careful.
A period of dry weather prior to Feb. 12 caused the snowpack to weaken, said Lammers. Since then, more than 60 centimetres of new snow has fallen.
“You’re likely to see elevated danger ratings for some time,” he said.
A heavy snowfall was expected in the mountain passes late Friday afternoon and evening. Environment Canada meteorologist Jim Steele said the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt would be hit the hardest, with 30 to 40 cm.
“It’s a pretty strong (storm) front for this time of year,” said Steele.
He suggested travellers bound for the Lower Mainland take the Trans-Canada Highway, where rain and some snow was expected.
Crews with VSA Highway Maintenance planned to be busy through the night. Vice president Bob Gilowski said the forecasted snowfall wasn’t the worst of the winter, but served as a reminder to motorists that it’s still winter in the mountains.
Kamloops Search and Rescue haven’t been dispatched to any avalanche rescues or recoveries this winter. Ritcey said he wants it to stay that way.
Anyone who does venture into the mountains should be prepared. Lammers said that includes taking the proper equipment — including a probe and transmitter.
The high-danger areas include the South Coast, Sea-to-Sky, the North and South Columbia, Monashees and Selkirks, Kootenay-Boundary, the Purcells and the South Rockies.