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Blanchard Talks Spring Banff Avalanche Condition Risks

A Banff avalanche, watch below

The big spring avalanche clear-outs are about two weeks late, but they can rise a lot from morning to afternoon, and they currently have experts urging caution.

Avalanche conditions in Banff National Park are dangerous and hikers, climbers and scramblers should use extreme caution.

Poor conditions could last until mid- to late-June this year. Visit avalanche.ca for current conditions.

“This snow has already lost its structure due to direct sunlight,” Barry Blanchard told CBC News.

“It’s quite moist, no longer sticking together. The next stage in its evolution is it gets like wet oatmeal. All you have to do is touch it and you’ll get a surface slough release of an avalanche.

“When you get a cold, clear night and the snowpack freezes and forms a frozen crust we have literally almost no avalanche hazard, and that can go to high avalanche hazard by the afternoon. It’s no longer bonded by an ice freeze, it’s now like wet oatmeal. It’s ripe for an avalanche, it just needs to be touched.”

In his book The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains, Blanchard wrote about an avalanche experience, “I saw the avalanche coming. It charged over the step of dirty, brown ice above like a breaking wave of black water. It hammered down the gully, driving into us like the fist of God, and I screamed. ‘The avalanche slapped my crampons out from under me, and I was folded in half. I was going to die.'”

Parks Visitor Safety specialist Conrad Janzen said, “Start really early, perhaps before sunrise and be on top of your objectives by mid morning and down before noon and for people just going out hiking, don’t forget there’s still avalanche hazard.”

“If you’re going out into the backcountry start early, finish early, and if you don’t have avalanche training don’t forget it’s still avalanche season.

“We’re probably, I would say, two weeks behind our normal period at least.

“It’s great for the ski season but it’s a bit of a concern for us now because it’s all warming in one big warm up instead of a gradual warm up.”

Watch an avalanche in Banff National Park below.