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Backcountry bulletin: Incoming Pineapple Express 'a recipe for rising avalanche danger'

'This is a good time to dial your terrain choices back and wait to see how the snowpack responds'
poop chutes phalance blackcomb glacier - whisler avalanche - wayne flann
The Poop Chutes zone on Phalanx Mountain, near Blackcomb Glacier, where a size 3 avalanche killed one skier and injured another last Friday, Feb. 12.

Avalanche conditions have been challenging in the Sea to Sky this winter.

Atypical weak layers have persisted longer than usual in what is often a pretty friendly coastal snowpack. There have been a number of serious recent accidents in the backcountry surrounding Whistler, including two deaths last weekend. The snowpack has been exceptionally reactive and tricky this season, and recent avalanches have involved skiers and boarders with years of experience in the backcountry.

Now, we’re looking at an incoming atmospheric river (commonly known as a “Pineapple Express”) that is expected to hit the mountains this weekend. These long, narrow plumes of moisture deliver heavy amounts of precipitation and mild air, and are a recipe for rising avalanche danger. This is a good time to dial your terrain choices back and wait to see how the snowpack responds.

Challenging and persistent conditions require patience and a conservative approach to avalanche terrain. Choose low-angle slopes and avoid areas where the snowpack is thin. Avoid travelling under large slopes and diligently investigate how snowpack layers are interacting. This could be a time to brush up on your backcountry travel skills with something like a one-day Managing Avalanche Terrain course. If you’re new to the backcountry, check out Avy Savvy, our new online tutorial or take an Avalanche Safety Training course.

It’s been a weird year and a lot of people have got into trouble lately, let’s take a collective step back and give the snowpack time to settle out and heal.

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