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Main Concerns: (Avalanche problems)
Wind Slab - 40 to over 100cm of snow accumulating over the weekend combined with strong South East winds will create wind slab predominantly on west to north aspects and in cross loaded features at tree line and in the alpine. These slabs will fail naturally and will be touchy to human triggers. They could produce avalanches from relatively harmless to people (Sz1) up to large enough to destroy a car (Sz3).
Storm Slab - Variations in temperature during the storms, particularly with warming on Saturday will result in more dense snow overlying less dense snow. These storm slabs will be found on all aspects and at all elevations. They will be touchy to human loads in the alpine and at tree line and could produce avalanches from relatively harmless to people (Sz1) up to almost large enough to destroy a car (Sz2.5).
Wet Loose Avalanches - Rising freezing levels on Saturday will bring rain to at least tree line if not to the tops of the Island Alps. Wet snow avalanches will occur naturally and with human trigger on all aspects and at all elevations to which rain reaches.
Stay out of avalanche terrain in times of high hazard as natural avalanches are likely. Travel in avalanche terrain under considerable hazard presents significant risks to anyone without extensive snow stability and terrain evaluation skills. Watch for windslab when entering wind affected areas and look for signs of unstable snow such as cracks and shooting cracks.
Remember that though small, loose wet avalanches can be heavy and "pushy" and can do harm when combined with terrain traps such as trees and cliffs. Watch freezing levels on Saturday and recognize that rain will increase the loose wet snow avalanche likelihood.
The height of snow tapers down significantly below tree line meaning that obstacles such as rocks and stumps remain barely covered at lower elevations. Watch out for these hazards.
At time of writing the island mountains have received around a metre of snow at tree line and accumulation continues. Precipitation came with very strong winds, likely to 90kph or more mostly from the South East. Freezing levels have ranged from about 500m to 1500m.
Avalanche Summary :
A natural avalanche cycle is likely to have occurred and will continue in the alpine and at tree line though poor visibility and a lack of observers in the field mean that we can not confirm this.
Some small, loose wet avalanches have been observed below tree line
The island snowpack currently consists of between about 50cm and 100cm of snow at tree line that has fallen on the Island Alps since winter began on Monday (lesser amounts on the north island). There are storm snow shears in the upper and mid snowpack which delivered easy to moderate test results on Thursday. Wind slab is widespread at tree line and in the alpine.
Friday: 15-50mm of precipitation (greater amounts on west coast), moderate to strong South East winds, freezing level around 1200m.
Saturday: 25-60mm of precipitation (greater amounts on west coast), moderate to strong South East winds dropping to moderate to light South West as the day progresses, freezing level 1500-1900m .(uncertainty here).
Sunday: 5-10mm of precipitation with the possibly up to 15-20mm on the west coast, moderate South West winds, freezing level 1500m dropping to 1200m.
Forecaster: Jan Neuspiel
Observations or comments? We want to hear them
Due to a lack of snow in the Island Alps the Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin is delayed in starting forecasts this winter. Snow is starting to accumulate in the mountains now and the forecast for this week suggests that we'll be starting to issue avalanche bulletins soon. In the meantime be aware that as snow starts to accumulate the first avalanche problems to come into play will be wind slab and storm slab in the high alpine particularly in areas of smooth ground cover. As more snow accumulates we'll start to see avalanche hazard at lower elevations. The bulletin will be up and running well before then.
If you have questions or if you are travelling in the mountains and have information to send our forecasters please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any and all contributions of conditions reports are of use.
Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin - End of the 2014 Season
This week end marks the end of the forecasting season for the V.I. Avalanche Bulletin. We will not issue further bulletins this spring unless a heightened hazard compels us to issue an up date or warning. If you are planning spring trips do check back here to see if we have issued any updates or warnings and as always plan your trips carefully.
Below is some general advice for traveling in avalanche terrain at this time of year:
Spring avalanche danger patterns are generally quite predictable in that they relate largely to day time warming from rise in temperature and direct sun light. Choosing which aspect to be on when is the way to manage this hazard. Danger is generally lower early in the day when temperatures are cool, the sun is not yet affecting slopes, and a strong supportive melt-freeze crust exists. Danger increases as temperatures rise, solar radiation intensifies, and surface snow becomes wet or slushy. If wet snow does not freeze overnight or if it's raining, hazard can be up at any time of day.
Watch for snow becoming wet and slushy to more than about 5cm depth, pinwheeling, snowballing and small loose, wet snow point releases out of steep terrain and at rock outcrops. When you see these signs be prepared to change your planned route to a shadier aspect which has not yet melted or if that is not available get out of avalanche terrain. Remember that wet snow avalanches can occur on lower angled slopes of 25 degrees or less.
Always keep an eye on what is above you. Remember that though it may be cool lower down in the shade where you are, sun could be affecting start zones above you.
While most loose wet avalanches tend to be small in size they are heavy and can be "pushy". As such, even small wet avalanches can cause significant harm especially when combined with terrain traps such as trees, stumps, rocks and cliffs.
Not all wet snow avalanches are small. With very warm temperatures and strong solar radiation or heavy warm rain, the snow pack could become saturated to great enough depth to cause failure of old weaknesses deeper in the snowpack making for much larger avalanches. In such extreme weather events staying out of avalanche terrain makes sense.
While getting out early is generally the rule of thumb it is worth considering that the snow tends to be hard first thing in the day and that exposure on steep slopes could result in nasty falls followed by sliding on hard snow which could be especially dangerous if there are consequences below. Remember that terrain traps such as cliffs and trees are a danger not only in avalanches!
There is still snow in the forecast meaning that more winter like avalanche problems such as wind slab and storm slab remain possibilities, typically at the higher elevations. When it does snow look for amounts of 20 to 30cm or more and be aware that this snow may not bond well initially to underlying crusts. Also watch for moderate and stronger winds which can transport new snow and create slabs of greater depth in the lees and in cross loaded features.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre's Forecaster Blog has some more good general advice for travel at this time of year. You can read the blog here: http://blogs.avalanche.ca/timing-is-everything-understanding-spring-danger-ratings/
If you are tripping in the island alps this spring please send your observations to us at email@example.com.
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Forecaster: Jan Neuspiel
This bulletin covers the mountainous region of Vancouver Island from the Mt. Cain Ski Area in the North to the Beaufort range to the South including the mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park.
This is a regional forecast and significant variation may exist within the forecast area. The information and danger ratings are intended as a trip planning aid for recreational, backcountry users of avalanche terrain; they are not meant to be used as the sole factor in determining the avalanche danger presented by a specific slope.
Always include local weather, snowpack and avalanche observations in your decision to travel in avalanche terrain. Observations and experience may lead to different conclusions from what is reported or recommended. See disclaimer for further details. The technical data used to produce these bulletins is obtained from a variety of sources, including local ski areas and remote weather resources.