Kootenay snowpack still below normal

Snowpack levels in the West Kootenay continue to be below normal for this time of year, bucking a general trend across the province.

The provincial Snow Conditions Commentary for mid-February says snowpack “increased considerably” in the province since the mid-January report, especially in the Kootenay-Boundary area, which is at 137% of normal, and the Skeena-Nass district.

But in the West Kootenay, readings from five automated weather stations show the average snowpack was 84% of normal for this time of year. Those readings range from Barnes Creek (93%) to St. Leon’s (66%).

The snowpack in the East Kootenay is even lower than the West, only averaging 77% of normal at the automated recording stations in that region.

There’s still plenty of time for conditions to change. By mid-February, the River Forecast Centre says just 75% of the season’s snowfall is expected to have accumulated.

Avalanche danger

Meanwhile, the danger of avalanches varies across the Valley Voice readership area at press time.

In the Kootenay Lake-Arrow Lakes region, avalanche danger was expected to be generally ‘considerable’ at mid-to-high elevations, and ‘moderate’ below the treeline.

“As the recent storm snow begins to consolidate into a slab, natural and human triggering becomes more likely,” cautions the avalanche.ca website. “Select lower-angle terrain and avoid exposure to large paths and overhead hazards like cornices.”

In the south Slocan and Kootenay-Boundary, conditions went from ‘low’ danger on the weekend to ‘moderate’ in low- and mid-altitudes, to ‘considerable’ in the alpine in the course of few days.

“If you find yourself in an area where stiff, old wind slabs still exist, use extra caution,” the site recommends. “Your best bet for finding soft snow is in sheltered terrain features, most likely on north aspects.”

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice