Backcountry skiers warned to avoid Rockies due to serious avalanche risk

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Backcountry winter conditions prompt safety reminder from K-Country officials

Chinook winds usher warm weather into Alberta on Saturday, but skiers and snowboarders shouldn't be tempted to head into the backcountry.

Avalanche Canada and Parks Canada issued a special public avalanche warning for Thursday through Monday, that applies to the following areas in B.C.'s interior:

- Lizard Range & Flathead

- South Rockies

- Purcells

- Kootenay Boundary

- South & North Columbia

- Glacier National Park

- The Cariboos

​Bulletins were also issued for Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Kananaskis national parks. 

​The snowpack contains weak layers, Avalanche Canada said in the warning, that have been buried by recent snowstorms.

"The weight of the new snow has brought this unstable snowpack to a critical point, making it very easy for skiers or snowmobilers to trigger large avalanches," the warning said.

Karl Klassen, the warning service manager for Avalanche Canada, says not to underestimate conditions during this time of year.

"If you feel firmer snow on the surface with softer weaker snow underneath those are classic signs that avalanche conditions are ripe, and you might want to be more cautious in those places than you would be at other times of year," Klassen told CBC News.

Parks Canada safety specialist Aaron Beardmore said skiers, hikers and snowboarders that do venture out should start early during the day while the snow pack is still sealed by the cooler temperatures and less likely to slide.

"The nicer part of the day is obviously in the afternoon when temperatures are warmer and if you're interacting with snow in that warm part of the day that's when that risk is much higher," said Beardmore.

Another important tip is to practice rescue techniques, carry the right equipment and plan each trip wisely.

Kananaskis Country public safety specialist Jeremy Mackenzie said people venturing out into the backcountry should not only carry a transceiver, shovel and probe, but that they should make sure they know how use them. 

"Even a small avalanche could be very hazardous to you if it happens to knock you off a cliff or off balance, so you may not actually get buried by the avalanche but you may get pushed into some terrain or off some terrain," Mackenzie said.

"If there's enough snow to ride, there's enough snow to slide."

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