While it may seem early days yet in respect to winter backcountry conditions, mountain safety specialists warn that slab avalanche conditions already exist.
People are already skiing on 100 centimetres of snow in Rogers Pass and Mike Koppang, public safety specialist for Kananaskis, said early winter conditions already exist in some areas.
In fact, mountain safety organizations like K-Country, the Canadian Avalanche Centre, Parks Canada, Alpine Club of Canada and the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides have launched an early season avalanche risk education initiative.
“This area is known for early season avalanche incidents,” said Koppang. “There’s not a lot of snow on the ground, but people still need to be aware.
“Ice climbers need to be careful even when it looks like there’s not much snow. Often, there’s a pinchpoint, an hourglass of snow, above where someone’s climbing; if it comes down, it can knock you off.
“We’re seeing more ice climbers out with beacons, shovels and probes; it’s an added advantage if something happens.”
Backcountry users are advised to check conditions at www.avalanche.ca or mountain condition reports at www.acmg.ca/mcr. A new avalanche bulletin format was launched Nov. 9 and can now be found at avalance.ca and at the Parks Canada website.
The new avalanche initiative relates to the timeframe of mid-October to mid-December and sombrely warns that chances are someone will die in an avalanche before winter really begins.
Ice climbers are reminded that even a small avalanche can kill you if it pushes you off a cliff and that even when a route appears snowless, wind can deposit unstable pockets of snow in unexpected places.
Skiers and snowboarders are reminded that snowpack – thin, windblown and patchy – is often at its weakest state early in the season.