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Avalanche warnings issued for parts of B.C. Add to ...

Avalanche forecasters say a recent dump of snow in the southern B.C. backcountry, coupled with expected sunshine and blue skies, could lead to disaster this weekend.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre has issued a special warning for the South Coast, North Columbias, South Columbias and Kootenay-Boundary regions from Friday to Monday.

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More than a metre of snow has blanketed those areas in recent days, raising the avalanche risk to high, said John Kelly, the centre's operations manager.

"Recreational backcountry users are going to see this coming weekend as the first good riding of the winter," Mr. Kelly said in a news release.

"We know people will want to hit the mountains hard. But there is a highly reactive weak layer in the snowpack that is just ripe for human triggering and we expect it will persist for some time after the end of the storm."

Several weak layers in the southern B.C. snowpacks, including one near the ground, increase the chance of a large, deep avalanche, Mr. Kelly said.

The warning is also intended for out-of-bounds skiers and boarders.

Mr. Kelly said anyone venturing into untracked powder outside regulated ski areas should carry a shovel, probe and transceiver - and be ready to use them.

"We want to remind parents at ski resorts to always be aware of where their kids are," he said. "It may look tempting outside the boundaries this weekend but it's not worth the risk."

So far this winter, one man, a 43-year-old from Maple Ridge, was killed after his snowmobile was swept off a mountainside by a slide on Dec. 28.

Police said the man was with 11 others exploring a network of trails near Coquihalla Lake, 60 kilometres north of Hope.

Despite being well equipped with rescue gear, the group that frantically searched for the victim was unable to dig him out on time.

Last season, 11 of the 12 people who died in avalanches were killed in B.C. The year before, 26 people lost their lives - eight of them in a single slide near Fernie.

In its ongoing effort to prevent tragedies, the avalanche centre has launched several new tools to help outdoor enthusiasts plan safe snow excursions.

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