B.C. in 'bullseye' of major winter storm causing ski resort closures, high avalanche risk

·3 min read

An intense winter storm is pummeling B.C. with snow, rain and wind, creating dangerous conditions that have forced some ski resorts to close due to high avalanche risk.

Mount Seymour and Grouse Mountain in Metro Vancouver are closed due to inclement weather, but Cypress Mountain remains open.

Whistler Blackcomb has issued an extreme weather warning. It is advising people to ski and ride with caution and prepare for high winds and rapidly changing weather conditions. Several chairlifts are not operating due to winds and a high risk of avalanches.

Avalanche Canada is forecasting a high or considerable risk of avalanches Saturday for much of B.C., including the Sea-To-Sky, South Coast and Kootenay-Boundary areas. Avalanche activity is expected to be widespread.

Large parts of Glacier National Park near Revelstoke, B.C., are also closed for avalanche control.

Avalanche risk high for much of B.C.

Storms coming from the Pacific Ocean are having a big impact across the province, said Ilya Storm, forecasting program supervisor for Avalanche Canada.

"B.C. is in the bullseye," Storm said.

"In Vancouver, that means a ton of rain, but once you get up into the mountains, that means a ton of snow, or many tons of snow.

"All this snow adds a huge amount of weight to the snow pack. It stresses it and that shock releases avalanches."

Conditions are so compromised that anyone could "very easily" trigger an avalanche on the South Coast, Storm said.

Cory Correia/CBC
Cory Correia/CBC

As much as 60 centimetres of new snow is expected by Saturday afternoon in the Sea-To-Sky area in southwestern B.C., bringing recent storm totals to more than 120 centimetres.

There are two "concerning" weak layers within this snow pack, Avalanche Canada said.

Two men were killed in an avalanche near Pemberton on Monday.

Another avalanche was triggered by a skier on Rainbow Mountain, near Whistler the same day. The skier was fully buried but was successfully rescued.

"These avalanches highlight the ongoing potential to trigger persistent weak layers in the snowpack," Avalanche Canada said in a statement.

CBC News
CBC News

Anyone considering venturing into the backcountry this weekend, particularly in the Sea-To-Sky or South Coast areas, should be equipped with avalanche training, a beacon, shovel and probe, and stay on low-angle terrain without hazards above, Storm said.

"If you don't have the training or the knowledge to be able to identify avalanche terrain, it's a good time to not be in the mountains," he added.

Evacuation order issued due to flooding on Vancouver Island

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for Whistler, Howe Sound, Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, as well as East and West Vancouver Island.

Up to 50 millimetres of rain is expected over some parts of Metro Vancouver by Saturday evening.

BC Ferries cancelled two of its sailings on the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route due to adverse weather conditions.

Two more sailing from Cortes Island to Quadra Island were also cancelled.

Rising waters from heavy rains have forced members of the Cowichan Tribes First Nation from their homes on Wil'seem Road and Sahilton Road near Duncan, B.C.

The order affects about 20 properties and follows a flood watch for East Vancouver Island from Nanaimo to Fanny Bay. B.C.'s River Forecast Centre says river levels are rising in the area due to heavy rain and may approach or exceed banks.

Other areas of the Cowichan Tribes First Nation are under an evacuation alert.