Curtis Pawliuk says sledder numbers are surprisingly steady this year despite a concern visitors wouldn’t be able to find accommodation. /RMG FILE PHOTO

Sledder numbers on par with last year

By Laura Keil

With unseasonably warm temperatures and rain turning snow hills into slush piles, some may be wondering how snow in the alpine is faring.

The rain below hasn’t translated into a ton of snow at higher elevations, said Curtis Pawliuk, General Manager of the Valemount Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA), but the important news is that the snow there is still dry, not wet and heavy.

“Up top we’re doing good,” he said. “We’re very lucky to be one of the few places in the province with relatively dry alpine snow. Riding quality is still quite good … It’s not mashed potatoes.”

With any spell of warm weather, there’s always concern regarding avalanches.

“Even just south of us there are rain crusts that are down almost at the base of the snowpack and those are really hazardous,” Pawliuk said.

Up north, the weather was just a little bit cooler so those rain events didn’t affect higher elevations, he said.

As of Tues. Jan .18th, Avalanche Canada showed a danger warning of Considerable at alpine, and Moderate at treeline and below for the three regions encompass the Robson Valley: the North Rockies, Cariboos and North Columbia (Monashees) regions.

Avalanche Canada warns that all three of these regions have storm slabs and wind-loaded deposits and there’s uncertainty around reactivity of a recently buried layer in the North Columbia.

“Approach steep slopes and convexities cautiously at all elevations. Investigate the bond of recent snow and tune into any signs of instability such as cracking or recent avalanches.”

Sledder numbers
Pawliuk says grooming of the access points has been difficult after a week of above zero temperatures, but all trailheads remain open.

He says trail users for December were on par with last year, despite concerns sledders wouldn’t be able to find accommodations due to low vacancies at hotels. Many pipeliners left town for the Christmas break and many hotels told the Goat prior to Christmas that they planned to keep some rooms open for sledders.

“I’m not sure where they’re all finding accommodations but there’s a big desire to come here and they’re making it happen.”

Pawliuk says it may appear there are fewer sledders this year because users are more spread out throughout the week, rather than everyone arriving on weekends.

“We’re not having those massive days, but we’re playing the law of averages.”