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Extreme avalanche hazard west of Calgary

Last Updated Mar 17, 2017 at 12:56 pm MDT

(Avalanche Canada)

The warm weather this weekend is likely to send a wave of people into the mountains to enjoy the snow and sun, but take care.

The avalanche hazard in many areas west of Calgary is forecast to be high to extreme.

A big snowfall on top of weak layers and warm weather makes this a very dangerous time along many slopes, according to Avalanche Canada.

“Even low down, there is exposure to avalanche terrain when you have a cycle of this magnitude,” warning service manager Karl Klassen said.

“We’re see size three, three-and-a-half, perhaps even size four, avalanches on a scale of one to five; those are massive. Many of them are reaching valley bottom. Some of them are taking out mature timber at the bottom of the valleys.”

The trouble areas include Kananaskis as well as Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.

Klassen said safety equipment is not a magic bullet when the risk is this extreme.

A perfect example is the two snowshoers from Boston killed in a slide this week along the Icefields Parkway. They had transceivers, but Klassen explained the avalanche is so large, they are buried under a tonne of snow and conditions made it difficult and dangerous for search crews.

Go to Avalanche Canada’s website¬†for the full details on the hazard ratings.