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Avalanche forecaster warning of increased risk in Whistler, North Shore mountains

As large amounts of rainfall have hammered B.C.’s South Coast over the past week, avalanche experts are ringing the alarm over increased risk in Whistler and the North Shore Mountains.

The large amounts of rain and warming temperatures have experts concerned.

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“One of the difficulties with that much rain falling on the snowpack is it’s more difficult to predict how the snowpack will behave,” said AJ Maheu, a North Shore Rescue avalanche forecaster.

It’s the peak season for Whistler and Blackcomb with thousands of riders daily. Crews are working hard to reduce avalanche risks in the area.

“The Whistler area is definitely dealing with some persistent weak layers that were formed towards the end of  November — which is still producing avalanches,” said Maheu.

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“As there is more snow, those avalanches become bigger and bigger.”

Last year on Dec. 27, snow bikers Graham Haywood and Nick Bowker died when they were caught up in an avalanche in the backcountry near Goat Peak.

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B.C. government agencies are also watching for avalanche and landslide dangers.

“With the amount of snow we’ve had and the amount of rain we are seeing, there is a higher likelihood of seeing rockslides, debris flows and those types of things,” said Steve Sirett, a B.C. Ministry of Transportation spokesperson.

While the avalanche risk on the North Shore Mountains is low, Maleu said that could change before the coming weekend.

“There is a possibility the avalanche hazard may increase maybe Thursday or Friday as we get a new system, which will bring us some snow rather than rain,” he said.

The public is advised to check out Avalanche Canada’s website before heading out to the backcountry for updated conditions.

Click to play video: 'B.C. evening weather forecast: Dec. 27'

B.C. evening weather forecast: Dec. 27

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