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Wednesday 17 January 2018

This Bulletin Valid Until: Friday January 19, 2018 @ 6 pm. 


DANGER RATINGS (Make sure you understand the danger level meanings)
Outlook Wednesday Thursday Friday


Confidence:  High- large storm system and weather models in agreement 

Main Concerns: (Avalanche problems)     

Storm slab- Significant quantities of new snow will fall this forecast period.  This new snow will form slabs that will be touchy as their bond to the old crust from the previous period will be poor.  These slabs will very likely produce avalanches, both naturally triggered and human, up to size 3 and will be found on all aspects and elevations.      

Wind slabThe new snow will be accompanied by strong south east winds.  These winds will certainly form slabs on north to west slopes in the alpine, treeline and open zones below treeline.  These slabs will very likely trigger naturally and with human activity and have the potential to be up to size 3.  

Wet slabA short lived spike in temperature and freezing level Wednesday afternoon till early evening, may possibly bring rain to the prior new snowfall.  This additional loading could cause the release of wet slab avalanches on all aspects and at all elevations.  These slabs will be touchy and will potentially be triggered both naturally and with human loads and could be up to size 2.

Travel/Terrain Advice:  Travel in any avalanche terrain when the hazard rating is high is strongly not recommended.  Expect large avalanches in many areas and very large avalanches in specific areas.  Still want to take advantage of the new powder.... Stay at the ski resorts where control work will reduce the danger or ski those low angled tree lines you love so much. Be wary of the potential for the temperature spike Wednesday afternoon.  If taking observations of the snowpack, the bond of the new snow to the old will be a main concern.  Be patient with your terrain choices and give it time to settle down and out before you turn the Rad on...               

Past Weather:  Warm temps and high freezing levels did not drop until later in the day Tuesday.  Light to moderate amounts of new snow fall began and tests showed a very poor bond to the old crust formed in the treeline and above.        

Avalanche Summary: Late Tuesday's new snow has already shown avalanche results with the release of small windslabs at treeline elevations.  Ski cutting at the end of the day on north to west aspects in the upper treeline at Mt Washington (by avalanche control teams) easily triggered small windslabs running on the old crust up to size 1.       

Snow Pack Description:

Surface - The new snow has already begun to accumulate and will continue to do so in significant quantities this forecast period.  Moderate (forecast to increase to strong) winds are building hardened windslabs on lee (north-west) slopes.   

Upper - The moist snow surface (from prior warm temps and rain) cooled by winds and dropping temps formed a thin melt freeze crust that remained intact on all aspects (except some direct solar below treeline terrain). This crust is now buried by the new falling snow and there is a very weak bond between them.       

Mid - Well settled and gaining strength

Lower - Well settled.

Weather Forecast:   Winter is finally here? La Nina? Who knows, but it sure looks like great skiing etc. ahead.  Significant new snow will fall over the next three days with strong south east winds.  A short lived temperature spike Wednesday afternoon in to early evening may put a bit of a damper on things, but they will soon turn back into a skier, snowboarder, snowshoe, snowmobile dream.  

Wed - 10-30 mm of rain and 10-40 cm of snowWinds moderate rising to strong from the south east.

Freezing levels of 1000 m rising to 2500 m during the spike then dropping to 800 m

Thurs - 20-50 cm of snow Winds strong south east. 

Freezing levels of  800-1000 m

Fri - 20-40 cm of snow and 5 mm of rain. Winds moderate to light south east.

Freezing levels of 750-1200 m


Prepared by Bill Phipps

Monday 15 January 2018

This Bulletin Valid Until: Wednesday January 17, 2018 @ 6 pm. 


DANGER RATINGS (Make sure you understand the danger level meanings)
Outlook Monday Tuesday Wednesday


Confidence:  Moderate- few snowpack observations, especially alpine. weather models in agreement 

Main Concerns: (Avalanche problems)  

Wet loose -  Warm temps and high freezing levels continue into Tuesday.  Light to moderate rain will fall Monday and begin to change to snow mid Tuesday as the freezing levels finally begin to descend.  These factors will therefore still mean the potential for wet loose avalanches, even thought the majority of the slopes that would produce these types of slides most likely released with the rain event last Saturday. These avalanches will be on slopes of all elevations and aspects, will be up to size 1-1.5 and may possibly trigger naturally and are likely with human activity.   

Wind slab and Storm slab - As our freezing levels and temps drop back to winter proper, precipitation will begin to fall as snow in the hills mid Tuesday.  Mid Wednesday will see the brunt of this new storm system with heavy snowfall into Thursday.  This new snow will potentially produce storm slabs in the alpine and on "alpine like" treeline features on all aspects up to size 2 with natural triggering possible and human triggering possible to likely.   Accompanied by strong south east winds, the new snow is likely to create wind slabs on north-west aspects in the alpine, treeline and open zones below treeline.  These slabs could produce avalanches up to size 2-2.5 and will possibly trigger naturally and are likely to trigger with human activity.  A short spike in freezing level and temperature late Wednesday afternoon into the early hours of Thursday will potentially make our slab problem more reactive to triggering as it increases the load on the new snow.   

Travel/Terrain Advice:  Winter version 5.0 is on its way during our season of fluctuating spring/winter conditions.  Last Saturday's rain and Sunday's warm temps have essentially reset our snowpack, so the main thing to be wary of is where the new snow is falling and being transported to with the winds.  Watch for loaded slopes and bowls and study how well the new snow is bonding to the old.  Be especially cautious of route choice later in the day Wednesday with the temperature spike increasing the likelihood of triggering an avalanche in the new snow.            

Past Weather:  Very high freezing levels (up towards 3000 m) accompanied light to moderate rain Saturday, right to to top of our island summits. Sunday things cleared up and brought very warm temperatures to the unseasonable range of 10 degrees on the slopes. Spring skiing conditions everywhere..      

Avalanche Summary: Saturday's warm temps and rain created a flurry of avalanche activity on all aspects and elevations, producing numerous loose wet slides triggered both naturally and human.  Those reported were fortunately in the size range of only 1-1.5, but we could expect some in the alpine were greater, if we had any alpine observations.      

Snow Pack Description:

Surface - A thin new melt freeze crust has been forming overnight in the alpine and open high treeline with day time temps decomposing it.  

Upper - Rain and warm temps have resulted in rapid settlement of the upper snowpack.  All elevations and aspects are now moist (with solar aspects going wet during Sunday's sun and warm temps).    

Mid - As temps and freezing levels begin to drop, the moist well settled upper snowpack will tighten and all but eliminate any concerns of the mid Jan, Dec and Nov crusts.

Lower - Well settled.

Weather Forecast:   Mild temps and light rain Monday into Tuesday will ease into light snowfall.  Strong south westerly flows will flush out the unseasonably warm weather, bringing us a new strong pacific storm late Wednesday into Thursday with significant snowfall.  The new system will arrive with a short lived spike in temperatures and strong south east winds.  Expect cloudy conditions over the forecast period so be prepaired for more difficult route finding in unknown terrain.   

Mon - 8-20 mm of rainWinds moderate from the south east.

Freezing levels of 3000-1700 m

Tues - 8-14 mm of rain and 5-15 cm of snow Winds light to strong south east. 

Freezing levels of  1600-500 m

Wed - 30-50 cm of snow and 10-20 mm of rain. Winds moderate to strong south east.

Freezing levels of 700-1500 m


Prepared by Bill Phipps

Friday 12 January 2018

This Bulletin Valid Until: Sunday January 14, 2018 @ 6 pm. 


DANGER RATINGS (Make sure you understand the danger level meanings)
Outlook Friday Saturday Sunday


Confidence:  High- significant snowpack observations and weather forecast models in agreement. 

Main Concerns: (Avalanche problems)  

Wind slab -  Snowfall Thursday and the forecast storm Friday, will come with strong to moderate south east winds.  These winds will create wind slabs in the alpine, treeline, and open pockets below treeline on the lee (north west aspects).  These slabs will be widespread in the alpine, on specific terrain in the treeline, and on isolated terrain features below treeline.  The slabs will be touchy, are very likely to almost certainly going to be triggered naturally and will be reactive to human activity. The slabs have the potential to be up to size 2.

Wet slab and Wet loose - Sadly, significant rainfall is forecast for our mountains this weekend well up into the alpine.  This rain will almost certainly result in loose wet avalanche activity that will be easily triggered by human activity and natural triggering, and may produce avalanches up to size 1.5.  Loose activity will be at all elevations and aspects.  The rain may also trigger wet slab avalanche activity on north west aspects where our wind slabs built Thursday-Friday.  It is likely to very likely that these wet slabs could be triggered by natural and or human activity.  These slabs will be in the alpine and treeline and have the potential to be up to size 3.  

Travel/Terrain Advice:  The desire to play in the powder Friday will be strong, with the knowledge that rain and warm temps are on the way this weekend.  Be very cautious, use conservative decision making and careful snowpack evaluations when traveling up or down into north-west facing wind loaded zones.  If entering steep avalanche terrain and loaded bowls, proper avalanche gear, knowledge and education is a must.  Take extra care and use safe techniques like skiing one at a time, safe zone to safe zone.  This weekend travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended!  Significant weak layers exist in the snowpack that have shown failures in snow studies.  These layers will wake up and become very active once the rain begins to fall to the very top of our mountains. Wet rain soaked avalanches are extremely powerful and present extreme danger when combined with terrain traps.  Avoid exposure above cliffs, depressions, tree bands and steer clear of gully features.  Remember wet avalanches tend to travel further than we expect and can run well into lower elevation bands and valleys.  Also a friendly reminder that skiing is not permitted in closed terrain on Mount Washington.  It is very likely that active avalanche control work will be underway over then next few days.  Please for your safety and that of the avalanche teams, stay out until gates are opened and do not cut under rope lines.            

Past Weather:  Strong to moderate winds from the south-east accompanied the new snowfall (up to 15cm) Thursday.  Freezing levels have stayed low (below 1000m) in the east but did jump up to 1300-1400 m in the west and north.       

Avalanche Summary: Thursday saw a marked rise in avalanche activity/sensitivity by both natural and human triggering. Wind slabs up to size 1.5 were very easily triggered while skiing treeline and below treeline N-E aspect terrain on steeper pitches and unsupported convex features.  The majority of these slabs ran down 5-25 cm on the January crust.   Natural activity was also seen on steep north facing treeline terrain.  Visibility has limited any alpine observations.    

Snow Pack Description:

Surface - New low density snow in wind sheltered zones.  Exposed areas have wind pressed slab properties but still ski well.  

Upper - New snow everywhere with a thin non-supportive crust, approximately 15-30 cm down on below treeline and treeline terrain from Monday's warm spike.  Strong to moderate south east winds have added to wind slabs on the north to west aspects in the alpine and treeline.  All this new load (in some areas up to 60 cm) is sitting on the January 6th rain crust which has shown significant weakness and failures in tests (producing moderate non planar results)  

Mid - The new snow and crust buried on Jan 6th is now bridging and almost eliminating concerns surrounding the mid Dec and mid Nov crusts. The moist mid snowpack seams very stable producing only hard results in tests on the Dec crust.

Lower - Well settled.

Weather Forecast:   Moderate to strong south east winds through the forecast period.  More new snow for Friday with rain to the top of our mountains for Saturday, easing Sunday.  Very high freezing levels and temps into the weekend.  

Fri - 5-20 cm of new snowWinds moderate to strong south east.

Freezing levels of 600-1200 m

Sat - 10-20 mm of rain Winds moderate to strong south east. 

Freezing levels of  1200-3000 m

Sun - 0-2 mm of rain. Winds moderate to strong south east.

Freezing levels of 2300-3000 m


Prepared by Bill Phipps

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Important Notice

This bulletin covers the mountainous region of Vancouver Island from the Mt. Cain Ski Area in the North to the Beaufort range to the South including the mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park.

This is a regional forecast and significant variation may exist within the forecast area. The information and danger ratings are intended as a trip planning aid for recreational, backcountry users of avalanche terrain; they are not meant to be used as the sole factor in determining the avalanche danger presented by a specific slope.

Always include local weather, snowpack and avalanche observations in your decision to travel in avalanche terrain. Observations and experience may lead to different conclusions from what is reported or recommended. See disclaimer for further details. The technical data used to produce these bulletins is obtained from a variety of sources, including local ski areas and remote weather resources.