Avalanches can be triggered suddenly, carrying ice and debris down slopes greater than 25 degrees at speeds up to 90 km/h. British Columbia had an average of 10.3 avalanche-related fatalities per year from 1996 to 2013, most of which occurred during recreational activities. It is very important to be aware of avalanche safety and risks before venturing into uncontrolled areas.
Avalanches can be triggered by any of the following:
- Overloading: The weight of the snow increases until it overcomes cohesion to the snow pack underneath.
- Temperature: A rise in temperature weakens the bonds creating weakness.
- Slope angle: Most avalanches occur on slopes between 25 and 40 degrees.
- Snow pack conditions: Layers below the surface are not visible making it hard to tell if a slope will fail.
- Vibration: Thunder, earthquakes, gun shots, explosions, or other noises can trigger avalanches.
Avalanches can occur throughout the year, but are most frequent in the late winter. The SLRD has a high risk of avalanches due to the amount of snowfall in across our region.
To learn about current avalanche risk conditions, refer to the Canadian Avalanche Centre's latest bulletin.
- Identify potential avalanche hazards ahead of time by checking the Canadian Avalanche Centre's latest bulletin.
- If venturing into the backcountry, take an avalanche safety course and always travel in groups. Ensure that you carry and know how to use essential safety gear including avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes. Wear high quality visible clothing, and bring a first aid pack, water and food.
- Drive carefully in avalanche areas and pay attention to road closures and avalanche signs, Please check the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Avalanche Program page for updates and information.
- Watch for weather patterns that can increase avalanche risk.
- Please visit the Canadian Avalanche Centre for additional planning information.
- If you are caught in an avalanche while driving stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt fastened. If it is possible, drive to a safe location at the sides of the avalanche path but do not try to drive through it.
- If you become caught in an avalanche, try to:
- Push heavy objects such as snownobiles away from you to avoid injury.
- Grab onto trees or rocks to avoid being swept away.
- Keep your mouth closed and your teeth clenched.
- Try to stay on the surface of the avalanche by using a swimming motion, kicking your feet and pushing snow with your arms.
- Try to move yourself to the side of the avalanche.
- When the avalanche slows, attempt to:
- Push yourself towards the surface.
- Make an air pocket in front of your face using one arm.
- Push the other arm towards the surface.
- When the avalanche stops, it will settle like concrete.
- Remain calm and wait for rescue, shout out only when someone is near as this can use up your air supply.
- Don’t try to dig yourself out unless you see light from above the snow, as you could disturb the air pocket you created.