South Klondike Highway hit with 'way above average' snowfall, closures due to avalanche risk

·2 min read
A snowplow clears a path on the South Klondike Highway. On Tuesday, the highway was shut down. (Colin MacKenzie - image credit)
A snowplow clears a path on the South Klondike Highway. On Tuesday, the highway was shut down. (Colin MacKenzie - image credit)

This year's large snowfall in southern Yukon has caused issues for highway staff and for people contracted by the territory's Highways and Public Works department to deal with avalanches.

This weekend was no exception, and crews kept bust as they responded to avalanche activity along the South Klondike Highway.

Colin MacKenzie, an avalanche contractor for Yukon's Department of Highways and Public Works, said this is due to a series of storms coming off the Pacific that have brought more snow, intense winds, and warmer temperatures.

This has a particularly big impact on the north end of the highway near the Venus mine, he said.

"They're short, steep slopes that have just been getting pummeled by strong winds. We had winds up to 100 kilometres an hour [Monday] night," he said.

On Tuesday morning the highway was shut down to assess and do explosive control to the slopes, with closures that continued into the afternoon.

Workers remove snow piled up along the South Klondike Highway on March 2, 2021.
Workers remove snow piled up along the South Klondike Highway on March 2, 2021.(Colin MacKenzie)

Most storms in over a decade along highway

He said it has been a very busy winter on the highway and the surrounding area for a variety of reasons.

"Natural avalanches, we're well over 100 per cent … the snowfall is way, way above average. And as well, the storms have this frequency and intensity that I haven't seen in, you know, the last 12 years on the highway," MacKenzie said.

Luckily, he said this hasn't led to any injuries this season, but it has led to quite a bit of inconveniences with road closures.

'The snowfall is way, way above average,' MacKenzie said.
'The snowfall is way, way above average,' MacKenzie said.(Colin MacKenzie)

He has spent a lot of time this winter watching the weather, and keeping tabs on how much snow is loading up in certain areas.

"When it's getting a bit too stormy, we can shut the road down and then we need to wait for good weather windows and use helicopters to drop bombs and these avalanche start zones and clean them out," he said.

If people want to get out into the backcountry along the South Klondike, MacKenzie said people need to really pay attention to the weather.

He also said people can check Yukon 511, the radio forecasts, and Avalanche Canada for the latest information.