02/20/2014 01:26 EST | Updated 04/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Avalanche Risk In Alberta, B.C. Mountains Very High

Avalanche Hazard Sign

This photo from <a href=""></a> 's blog.
Avalanche Hazard Sign This photo from <a href=""></a> 's blog.
There is a very high risk of avalanches in most of the mountain ranges in Western Canada, prompting officials to issue a special public warning.

The problem is a result of the extended dry period of late January and early February, said Karl Klassen, avalanche warning manager at the Canadian Avalanche Centre.  

"That long drought left the surface of the snowpack in very bad shape,” he said.

“Now the new snow is sitting on one of the worst weak layers we’ve seen in a few years. That weakness is currently anywhere between one and two metres deep so when it’s triggered, the resulting avalanches are very large.”

There was an extremely large slide near Fernie earlier this week, said Klassen.

“The thing that's of concern right now is that the number of avalanches that we're seeing is actually decreasing as the layer kind of adjusts to the load that's been applied to it,” he said.

“But the size of the avalanche is getting larger.”

Klassen said the risk stretches over most of B.C. and the eastern slopes of the Rockies in Alberta.

The special avalanche warning for recreational backcountry users will be in place until Feb. 26. But depending on the weather, the dangerous conditions could last for weeks, Klassen said. 

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