Uncertainty in avalanche forecasting due to COVID-19 closures

Backcountry virus concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting every aspect of daily life, and that includes recreation. Following the closure of ski resorts across the province, avalanche forecasting for backcountry users could also be hit.

As a result of the closure of many backcountry helicopter and cat skiing operations due to the spread of the virus, data from these avalanche professionals used by Avalanche Canada has decreased, making for the possibility of less accurate avalanche forecasting.

“We are assessing this situation on a daily basis but are expecting an increase in our forecast uncertainty as these closures progress,” Avalanche Canada said in a recent statement.

Avalanche Canada's Mountain Information Network is an online system where all backcountry users can submit their observations. Avalanche Canada says this system is now more vital than ever.

“We are actively encouraging all backcountry users to submit their observations. Even the most basic data will be helpful, so please consider posting to the MIN. We are also encouraging avalanche professionals to keep providing whatever data they have.”

Additionally, Parks Canada issued a statement Tuesday, asking backcountry users to minimize their risk while enjoying the mountains. 

"Park Canada’s Visitor Safety teams are asking all backcountry travelers to keep their personal risk to an absolute minimum," Parks Canada wrote. 

"Now is not the time to have a backcountry accident, which will stress the capacity of our teams and the medical system. Enjoy the fresh air, but please help everyone out by restraining your activities."

Currently, Avalanche Canada has a moderate avalanche danger across all elevations in the majority of the province's Interior. Warming from the sunny days throughout this week are expected to weaken the snowpack, causing trickier avalanche conditions.

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