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Not much snow below tree line but there is an avalanche hazard in the Island alpine

Islanders (especially those of the winter snowsport variety) have been a little taken aback by the lack of snow in the Island alps so far this winter.

While a winter without much snow to start is not unheard of in these parts, the reason for this one is certainly a bit unusual. Whereas an early winter season lacking in snow is typically due to warm temperatures and high freezing levels rather than a lack of precipitation, this winter’s lack of snow is mostly attributable to a lack of moisture. Indeed the precipitation figures for October, November and December are at about half of historical averages and the figure for December on it’s own is at about one third of average.

But if a mountain recreationist wants to see some snow they certainly can. All they need to do is hike up above the tree line and into the alpine and they would find the snow that they seek. Indeed, they would also find an avalanche hazard up in the alpine despite appearances lower down. The avalanche hazard ratings in the alpine on the Island have risen to “Considerable” (meaning both natural and human triggered avalanches are possible) on several occasions already this winter.

The presence of avalanche hazard even in these dry times reminds us of the importance of public avalanche education and of publicly available avalanche warning systems. Here on Vancouver Island the source of these warnings is the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre. The centre is run by the non-profit Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre Society which raises funds from the donations of generous Island businesses and from two fundraising events each year. The centre receives no public funding.

The two fundraising events which the centre runs each year are the Party for the Bulletin and the Back Country Festival. The first of these is coming up very soon on Saturday.

The sixth annual Party for the Bulletin features live music from Des larson and the Times and from Brodie Dawson. It also features an amazing silent auction featuring awesome gear from La Sportiva Skis, Valhalla Pure Outfitters, Arcteryx, Backcountry Access, Black Diamond and many others as well as ski passes for Mount Washington, avalanche education courses and guided ski touring from Island Alpine Guides and Strathcona Mountain Adventures and much more. The whole event is lubricated by Lighthouse Brewing.

This now legendary event has become a must do on all Island mountain adventurers calendars. It takes place at the Riding Fool Hostel in Cumberland with the doors opening at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11. It is a 19-and-over event and tickets can be purchased at Tarbell’s Deli in Cumberland or by phone from Island Alpine Guides at 250-400-2870.

Watch this space for news about the Backcountry Festival at Mount Cain taking place on Feb. 8-9 this year.

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