Avalanche Bulletin - Waterton Lakes National Park - Thu Mar 04, 2021

Issued: Thu Mar 04, 2021 07:59
Valid Until: Sun Mar 07, 2021 17:00
Special Avalanche Warning in Effect... Click Here

UPDATED THUSDAY 08:00
This is the first big warm up of the season, and we expect to see an increase in natural avalanche activity, especially on sunny slopes - the hazard will likely creep into the HIGH range on Thursday afternoon with intense sun.
[AG]

Public Avalanche Forecast
Danger Ratings: Friday alpine treeline below treeline
alpine: 4 - High
4 - High
  • Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
  • Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely.
  • Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas.
treeline: 4 - High
4 - High
  • Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
  • Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely.
  • Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas.
below treeline: 3 - Considerable
3 - Considerable
  • Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential.
  • Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely.
  • Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas.
Forecast
Forecast Saturday Sunday
alpine View Alpine Danger Rating Trend 3 - Considerable 2 - Moderate
treeline View Treeline Danger Rating Trend 3 - Considerable 2 - Moderate
below treeline View Below Treeline Danger Rating Trend 3 - Considerable 2 - Moderate
Confidence: Moderate - The weather pattern is stable
High The forecast is based on high-quality information and the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgement. A 'high confidence' rating does not imply fact or complete certainty however, and such judgements still carry the risk of being wrong.
Moderate The information used to produce the forecast is credibly sourced and plausible, but it is not of adequate quality or sufficiently corroborated to warrant a higher level of confidence.
Low The credibility or plausibility of the information used to produce the forecast is questionable, or the information is too fragmented or poorly corroborated to make solid judgements, or there are significant concerns regarding problems with the sources.
Past 24 hour weather
Station Maximum (°C) Minimum (°C) Snowfall (cm) Snow Pack (cm) Wind speed Ridgetop wind direction
Little Prairie 1650m Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available
Low
  • Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
  • Natural and human-triggered avalanches unlikely.
  • Small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain.
Moderate
  • Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
  • Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible.
  • Small avalanches in specific areas; or large avalanches in isolated areas.
Considerable
  • Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential.
  • Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely.
  • Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas.
High
  • Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
  • Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely.
  • Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas.
Extreme
  • Avoid all avalanche terrain.
  • Natural and human-triggered avalanches certain.
  • Large to very large avalanches in many areas.

Problem 1: Persistent Slabs

Which Elevation?
Which Elevation? treeline, below treeline, alpine
Which Slopes?
Which Slopes? southeast, south, southwest, northwest, west, north, northeast, east
Chance of Avalanches?
Chance of Avalanches? possible
Expected Size?
Expected Size? small - large

This problem is most prevalent at and below treeline, and will become easier to trigger with the warm temperatures. An avalanche on this layer will have heavy consequences with a burial depth of 20-50cm and the potential for wide propagation.

Travel and Terrain Advice

  • Be aware of the potential for wide propagations.
  • Use conservative route selection, choose moderate angled and supported terrain with low consequence.

Problem 2: Wet Loose

Which Elevation?
Which Elevation? alpine, treeline, below treeline
Which Slopes?
Which Slopes? southeast, east, northwest, west, southwest, south, northeast, north
Chance of Avalanches?
Chance of Avalanches? likely - very Likely
Expected Size?
Expected Size? small - large

Rising freezing levels will make wet loose avalanches a major concern. Be mindful of your overhead hazard be aware that warm temperatures may cause cornices to fail.

Travel and Terrain Advice

  • If triggered the loose wet sluffs may step down to deeper layers resulting in large avalanches.
  • Minimize exposure when the solar radiation is strong, especially if snow is moist or wet.

Problem 3: Wind Slabs

Which Elevation?
Which Elevation? alpine, treeline
Which Slopes?
Which Slopes? northeast, east, southeast, south, north
Chance of Avalanches?
Chance of Avalanches? possible - likely
Expected Size?
Expected Size? small - large

Older wind slabs will become more reactive throughout the day as temperatures increase. Be especially wary of sunny lee slopes.

Travel and Terrain Advice

  • If triggered the wind slabs may step down to deeper layers resulting in large avalanches.
  • Avoid avalanche terrain during periods of strong sun.
Problem Glossary
Dry Loose
  • Are usually small, but may gain significant mass on long steep slopes.
  • Are typically limited to steep terrain (40+ degrees).
  • Stabilize soon after a storm, usually within a few days.
Dry Loose avalanches are best managed by:
  • Avoiding terrain traps and large steep slopes until the surface has stabilized.
  • On large steep slopes, occasionally move across the fall line to avoid being caught by your own sluffs from above.
Wet Loose
  • Are more powerful than dry loose avalanches due to their higher density.
  • Are often limited to sunny slope aspects.
  • Are commonly confined to the warmest part of the day.
Wet Loose avalanches are best managed by:
  • Avoiding start zones and avalanche paths when the snow becomes moist from daytime heating, from rain, or does not freeze overnight.
Wind Slabs
  • Vary in size from small to medium.
  • Occur on steeper lee and cross-loaded portions of slopes (typically 35+ degrees).
  • Are often limited to specific terrain features such as lee ridge-tops.
  • Can often be recognized by the appearance of the snow surface, changes in surface snow hardness, hollow, drum-like sounds and/or shooting cracks.
  • Winds that vary in strength and direction can produce complex and unexpected wind slab patterns.
  • Stabilize fairly soon, usually in a few days to a week.
Wind slabs are best managed by:
  • Recognizing and avoiding areas where wind slabs have formed, until they have stabilized.
Storm Slabs
  • Vary in size from small to very large.
  • May be soft slabs, fooling people into underestimating slab potential.
  • Tend to occur on moderately steep slopes (35+ degrees).
  • May occur in all terrain, but are larger and more frequent in the alpine.
  • Stabilize soon after a storm, usually within a few days.
Storm slabs are best managed by:
  • Conservative terrain choices during and after storms until the storm snow has stabilized.
Wet Slabs
  • Involve wet layers in the snowpack, typically including deeper layers.
  • Tend to be large.
  • Occur when water forms or penetrates below the surface of the snowpack.
Wet slabs are best managed by: 
  • Avoiding start zones and avalanche paths when the snow becomes wet from daytime heating, rain, or lack of an overnight freeze.
Persistent Slabs
  • Slide on buried persistent weak layers, which often form during clear periods and may involve deeper layers from multiple storms.
  • Vary in size from medium to very large and may cross terrain barriers to involve multiple slide paths.
  • May occur on very gentle terrain, even slopes of 20 degrees or less.
  • May be localized to specific elevations, aspects, or regions.
  • There are often no visible signs of persistent slab instability.
  • Lack of avalanche activity and lack of danger signs are NOTreliable indicators of stability.
  • Compression tests and Rutschblock tests may locate persistent weak layers.
  • Stabilize slowly, tending to persist for several weeks or longer.
  • Often have dormant periods, becoming active again when the weather changes.
  • Are prone to lingering pockets of instability that persist long after most areas have stabilized.
  • Tend to release above the trigger, making it difficult to escape.
  • Are often triggered remotely from a long distance away.
Persistent slabs are best managed by:
  • Very conservative terrain choices.
  • Allow extra time for persistent slabs to stabilize and use a very cautious approach to new terrain. Be especially cautious after storms or during warming periods.
Deep Persistent Slabs
  • Slide on deeply buried persistent weak layers, which often form during clear periods or rain-on-snow events early in the season.
  • Involve thick, hard slabs, sometimes the entire snowpack.
  • Tend to be very large, commonly cross terrain barriers to involve multiple slide paths.
  • Tend to occur on larger slopes of moderate steepness, typically 30-40 degrees.
  • May be localized to specific elevations, aspects, or regions.
  • There are often no visible signs of persistent deep slab instability.
  • Lack of avalanche activity and lack of danger signs are NOT reliable indicators of stability.
  • Stabilize slowly if at all, persisting for months and often the entire season.
  • Dormant persistent deep slab instabilities often become active again when the weather changes, especially after storms or with warm spring weather.
  • Tend to release above the trigger, making it difficult to escape.
  • Are often triggered remotely from a long distance away.

Deep persistent slabs are best managed by:

  • Very conservative terrain choices and a very cautious approach to new terrain.
  • Be especially cautious after storms or during warming periods.
Cornices
  • May trigger large slab avalanches on relatively stable slopes below.
  • Are often associated with recent wind loading and/or temperature changes.
  • Can be triggered from ridges, sometimes breaking surprisingly far back onto ridge tops.

Cornices are best managed by:

  • Approaching corniced ridges cautiously.
  • Avoid travelling on or near overhanging cornices and limit time spent exposed to slopes below cornices, especially soon after wind events and during periods of warming temperatures.
Forecast Details

Weather Forecast

Thursday: Sunny. Alpine temperature: High 3 C. Ridge wind southwest: 20-40 km/h. Freezing level: 2600 meters dropping to 1300m overnight with a weak inversion.

Friday: Repeat of Thursday with a little more cloud cover.

Saturday: Flurries. Ridge wind southwest: 30 km/h gusting to 60 km/h. Freezing level: 2500 metres.

Snowpack Discussion

Surface snow will quickly become moist as the sun beats down and freezing levels rise to ridge top. 20-50cm wind slab sits on top of the weak February 14 facet layer which is above a melt freeze crust at treeline and below. The remainder of the midpack is made up of dense facets and decomposing crusts, with early season ice crusts forming the base.

Avalanche Activity Discussion

Several natural wind slab and loose wet avalanches were observed on Wednesday on SE through NE aspects from 1800-2200m with rising freezing levels. Expect this trend of natural avalanches to continue until temperatures drop.

For More Details

Emergency: 911
Forecasters: (403) 762-1470

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