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Avalanche risk jumps to high

Backcountry skiers, snowboarders and sledders should be wary of dangerous avalanche conditions on mountains across much of southern British Columbia in the coming days, search-and-rescue officials say.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre said Monday that the avalanche rating will jump to considerable or high on Tuesday and Wednesday for alpine and some treeline zones on mountain ranges from Vancouver's North Shore to southeastern B.C., as well as the northwest coast.

A slab of new snow on top of an underlying weaker layer has created unstable conditions, the centre said.

A high rating also means very dangerous avalanche conditions exist, with large avalanches considered likely and human-triggered slides considered very likely.

"We had a pattern of cold, clear nights for the past week, and some melting and freezing during the day creates this kind of crust, and there's always a worry about new snow on an old crust like that," said Michael Coyle of Coquitlam Search and Rescue about conditions on the south coast.

Coyle said the lack of snow on local mountains during the past few weeks means many skiers and snowboarders have moved onto activities such as hiking and mountain biking.

But a dump of new snow in recent days means outdoor enthusiasts may be eager to take advantage of the new conditions, just as the hazard quickly moves from very low to very high, he said.

Coyle said the avalanche risk is always greatest immediately after a snowfall.

He urged people to find out about avalanche conditions before they head to the mountains and take appropriate equipment, including a probe, avalanche transceiver and shovel.

People should also consider taking some form of avalanche training, he added.

Environment Canada has issued snowfall warnings for the central coast, Howe Sound, inland sections of the north coast, west Columbia and Whistler regions, as accumulations of 15 to 30 centimetres are expected.

The agency forecast snow for much of Vancouver Island and the province's south coast Monday, but little if any snow fell in areas such as Metro Vancouver, where rain was the norm.

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