Provincial News

Avalanche Canada cuts warnings service one month early due to COVID-19

By The Canadian Press

Published 1:02 PDT, Tue March 24, 2020

VANCOUVER — Avalanche Canada says it is shutting down its warning service because of restrictions related to the spread of COVID-19.

A statement from the service says its forecasts rely primarily on data from a network of avalanche experts across Western Canada, but early closure of backcountry operations has cut the flow of information.

The avalanche warning service says it isn't receiving enough data to issue accurate forecasts.

It says the last one will be posted March 28, about one month earlier than normal, and will remain in effect until March 30.

Avalanche Canada will also shut down the Mountain Information Network, an online platform allowing backcountry users to submit trip reports and observations from the field.

Executive director Giles Valade says concern about adding injured backcountry adventurers to the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the decision.

"Both B.C. and Alberta have declared a state of emergency. Our health authorities, as well as our prime minister, are urging people to stay home. This is clearly not the time for taking any sort of risk," Valade says in the statement.

Avalanche risk on Tuesday was rated as low to moderate on all B.C. and Alberta mountains except the South Coast range near Vancouver, where risk was ranked as considerable in the alpine region.

The Avalanche Canada website shows risk across the South Coast range falls to moderate by Wednesday.

The site shows three snowmobilers, two snowboarders, a skier and snowshoer have died and one boarder was hurt in six incidents in the B.C. or Alberta backcountry since the 2019-20 avalanche season began.

That number includes the death of a 37-year-old Japanese snowshoer on Brunswick Mountain near Vancouver. Burnaby RCMP confirmed search and rescue members recovered the body Friday, more than a week after the man was last seen.

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