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New snow creating 'very dangerous' avalanche conditions in B.C. backcountry

A snowmobiler died in an avalanche near the Alberta-B.C. border on Saturday.

Dangerous avalanche conditions have developed in British Columbia's backcountry following a recent snowfall.

On Monday morning, Avalanche Canada said new snow over buried weak layers in the snowpack causing "very dangerous" avalanche conditions for most of their forecast regions.

“Over the weekend, we saw numerous reports of avalanche activity on these buried layers,” says a spokesperson. 

A group of snowmobilers triggered an avalanche on Saturday in southern Alberta, roughly 13 kilometres from the B.C. border at Gardiner Creek.

Two people were caught in the avalanche in Castle Wildland Provincial Park, which is beside the Flathead Range in B.C.

"One person was able to escape but one person was fully buried by the avalanche,” says a spokesperson. 

RCMP in Crowsnest Pass, Alta., say two men and two children were in the group.

The group tried to locate the person but was unable to find them and rode out to get help. 

"Search and rescue located the buried victim the following day and they were found to be deceased,” says Avalanche Canada.

Police say the victim has been identified as a 46-year-old man from Magrath, Alta., but they have not released his name.

The avalanche is believed to have failed on a layer of faceted crystals on a crust that was buried at the start of February. 

Avalanche Canada suggests avoiding "all avalanche terrain" in many of the regions right now. 

B.C.’s Coastal Mountains are under "dangerous" conditions while areas in the Cariboo, Purcell, Selkirk, Monashees and Rocky Mountains are under "very dangerous" avalanche conditions. 

The high danger rating is expected to stick around for at least three days in the Cariboo Mountains. Avalanche Canada says large avalanches are likely to occur as a dangerously buried weak layer has shown it can be triggered from far away. 

The North Shore Mountains have a moderate danger rating; dangerous avalanche conditions exist in the alpine where recent snow and strong winds have built fresh wind slabs. 

The backcountry near Garibaldi Provincial Park and Whistler has a considerable danger rating on Monday. 

"Dangerous avalanche conditions exist where new snow and wind continue to add load about buried weak layers," states a spokesperson. "Uncertainty is best managed through conservative terrain choices at this time."

On Vancouver Island, moderate avalanche conditions are present on Monday for mid-island and considerable avalanche conditions are present for the north part of the island.

On Wednesday, Avalanche Canada expects there to be an elevated risk to a "high" danger rating in the alpine for mid-island and north island's backcountry.

An online report by Avalanche Canada advises that people in the backcountry should "start on smaller terrain features and gather information before committing to bigger terrain."

People should also watch for signs of instability: whumphing, hollow sounds, shooting cracks, and recent avalanches.

The report for the mid-island calls for "caution above cliffs and terrain traps where even small avalanches may have severe consequences." People should watch for wind-loaded pockets especially around ridgecrest and in extreme terrain.

For more details about the conditions in the backcountry, visit Avalanche Canada’s website

With files from The Canadian Press