Avalanche Cautions

Avalanche down mountain
Avalanche down mountain
Ryan bray photo, Parks canada

The backcountry of Jasper National Park comprises a wide variety of terrain ranging from broad, well travelled valley bottom trails to steep alpine slopes and vast, complicated glaciers that can provide a fantastic playground for mountaineers, backcountry skiers and ice climbers of all experience levels.

Avalanches are the most significant threat to the safety of anyone recreating in the uncontrolled mountain backcountry during the winter months. Snow avalanches happen when a combination of factors, including the amount of snow accumulated on a slope, the steepness of the slope, and the changes to the snowpack caused by wind, sun, temperature and precipitation, cause the bond within the snowpack or between the snowpack and the ground to weaken to the point that the snowpack can no longer hold itself together.

On the highways and secondary roads that pass through Jasper National Park National Park, drivers should avoid stopping in posted avalanche zones. In the backcountry, your safety is your personal responsibility. While many hazards - including avalanches - exist, the risk of personal injury you face can be minimized by taking reasonable precautions. Caution and self-reliance are essential, along with a knowledge of natural hazards, experience in avoiding them and successfully dealing with them when they happen. Pick trips that reflect your level of ability. Ask park staff at any of the Jasper National Park Visitor Information Centre if you are unsure.

Avalanches can happen on slopes as shallow as 15 degrees. An avalanche does not have to be large to do harm to a person. Even a small avalanche can shove a skier or an ice climber over a cliff or into a crevasse on a glacier. Avalanches can be powerful, fast-moving and extremely dangerous, and the snow can settle quickly. Avalanches can be triggered naturally as the weather and snow conditions change, or they can be triggered by a person, animal or vehicle, such as a snowmobile, travelling through the terrain.

Public Avalanche Forecasts are provided so that park visitors planning trips into the backcountry for one or more days will use that information to help them make the most appropriate destination and terrain decisions. Backcountry travellers must be aware that while the forecasts strive for accuracy, backcountry conditions change regularly and can never be predicted with absolute certainty. Visitors should also know that forecast regions within the Mountain Parks are relatively large, and anomalies are possible in smaller areas within those regions that experience unique conditions.

Visitors to the Jasper who plan to travel in avalanche terrain in the backcountry should check the Public Avalanche Forecasts on a regular basis in the weeks and days prior to their trip to gain information about avalanche conditions as they evolve throughout the season. The daily avalanche forecast for all of the Mountain National parks including Jasper is available at avalanche.pc.gc.ca.