Avalanche season not over yet

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By Keith Nicol

Special to the Star

With increased interest in backcountry skiing in western Newfoundland, especially now that Marble Mountain has closed, the warmer weather of spring also comes with a risk of avalanches.

For those who can’t get enough of winter, the Tablelands and Blow Me Down Mountains beckon backcountry snowshoers, skiers and snowboarders. On our most recent trip to the Tablelands Bowl on Friday we counted more than 20 people enjoying this area.

The risk of avalanches, however, may increase by collapsing cornices.

Cornices are unsupported overhangs of snow that often collapse without warning as the temperature rises. With all the wind this past winter, some of these cornices are huge and easily stick out 5-10 metres from the top of a slope. The cornices that ring the top of the Tablelands Bowl in Gros Morne National Park are always large and they recently collapsed, triggering large avalanches on the slopes below.

Some of the cornice chucks were the size of 15 passenger vans and tumbled hundreds of meters down the slope.

 The avalanche debris was also piled deep and anyone that happened to be in the way of this activity would have certainly been severely injured or killed. The trigger for these cornice breaks and ensuing avalanches was likely the two days of 15 C temperatures experienced in Corner Brook on April 15 and 16.

On our most recent trip to the Tablelands on April 18, we observed lots of cornices still waiting to come down.  

If you plan of visiting this area or others where there are overhanging cornices above the slopes you are skiing or riding, be especially cautious as the temperature ramps up.

For more information on spring avalanche safety in Western Newfoundland see the following blog post: keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2014/04/spring-snow-safety-in-western.html

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Marble Mountain, Gros Morne National Park Corner Brook

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