Avalanche control at Three Valley Gap. (Photo by Ministry of Transportation)

Big snows: Another snowfall record broken in Revelstoke area

Three Valley Gap received record breaking snowfalls for January

It’s been a record year for snow levels at Three Valley Gap, roughly 20 km west of Revelstoke on Highway 1.

Although the season started below average in November, the Ministry of Transportation noted record breaking snowfalls for both December and January.

Three Valley Gap received 287 cm of snow in December, which is 171 per cent above average and record breaking. It also got 233 cm last month, which is 145 per cent above average and a new record for January.

Day after day, the snow has kept falling.

“It’s been relentless,” said Robb Andersen, senior manager of avalanche and weather programs for the Ministry of Transportation. Andersen has been an avalanche technician for 25 years.

READ MORE: Big dump: December’s snowfall near Revelstoke record breaking

READ MORE: Bringing down a mountain: a day in the life of an avalanche tech

Andersen said that while the snowpack is different each winter, a defining characteristic for the 2019/2020 season is depth.

The three valleys of the name Three Valley Gap include the eastern and western egresses from Eagle Pass pass and a southward opening into the upper reaches of Wap Creek, which is a northern tributary of the Shuswap River. The gap is roughly 25 km west of Revelstoke. Photo by Ministry of Transportation)

The terrain surrounding Three Valley Gap is steep, which creates snow instability. The snow doesn’t have the strength to hold itself up before it starts to avalanche.

“It’s a very challenging area,” said Andersen.

If it wasn’t for the remote avalanche system installed at Three Valley Gap, Andersen said Highway 1 would have been closed far more often this winter.

In 2016, the B.C. Ministry of Transport spent $6 million constructing four permanent towers at known avalanche paths in the Three Valley Gap.

The system triggers slides remotely, meaning avalanche control can be done overnight, which disrupts traffic flows less.

In the past, avalanche control was more dependent on daylight and good weather. It was more common for avalanche technicians to drop bombs on slopes via helicopters.

With the remote system, the installed towers fire explosives on nearby slopes. The explosives hang on ropes above the slopes, roughly a meter or two above the snow. When detonated the explosives gives the snow an air blast, which destabilizes the snowpack and creates an avalanche.

Currently, there are 11 remote avalanche control systems in Three Valley Gap and a total of 46 province-wide.

While the amount of closures has not decreased since 2013, the length of each closures has. For example, in 2014 and 2018 the road was closed 20 times. However, total closure time in 2014 was more than 106 hours, compared to less than 30 hours in 2018.

READ MORE: Highway 1 avalanche closure times decreasing around Revelstoke

In some cases, the ministry said the length of highway closures have decreased up to 70 per cent.

Clearing an avalanche at Three Valley Gap. (Photo by Ministry of Transportation)

However, the amount of closures have not decreased as the remote system allows the ministry to preform avalanche control more frequently, thereby preventing the snowpack to build too high, so the avalanches are smaller and easier to clean up.

With the remote system, Andersen said it usually takes five to 10 minutes to trigger avalanches. The part that takes the longest is the clean up. Typically, the larger the avalanches, the longer it takes to clear the road.

According to the ministry, Highway 1 closures can cost $500,000 per hour.

“The real cost savings of the remote system is reducing the closure times,” said Andersen.

“Which has a huge impact on communities like Revelstoke.”

Regardless, for a highway avalanche technician, the work never ends.

“With highways, you’re constantly thinking about it,” Andersen said.

Unlike ski hills, which conduct avalanche control during the day and closes at night, the aim is to keep Highway 1 always open. Thus, Andersen said there is always staff monitoring weather and snowpack stability.

Since this year is one of the snowiest on record, Andersen said his crews are getting worn down.

“We’ll be happy for two weeks of sunny weather,” he said with a chuckle.

According to Environment Canada, another 30 cm of snow is expected within the next week for Revelstoke.


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Avalanche

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Towers for remote avalanche control. (Photo by Ministry of Transportation)

Just Posted

Lake Country Food Bank welcomes wheelbarrow load of donations

Rotary Club presents symbolic cheque for the $24,600 raised since August 2018

Vernon family shares story of son’s cancer recovery to encourage blood donation

Finlay Ritson’s parents can’t donate blood, but hope his story will encourage others to do so

WATCH: North Okanagan seniors stay fit in self-isolation

Residents have taken to their balconies to follow along in exercise class

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Colouring book will feature images of Summerland

Project is a joint initiative of Summerland Museum and Summerland Community Arts Council

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Visitor to Kamloops army club tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The individual visited Anavets 290 Army and Navy Club between March 13 and March 17

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

COVID-19: Staying home in Shuswap is difficult when you don’t have one

As the snow flies, people without homes in Salmon Arm talk about how tough life is

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Vernon politician questions if response to COVID-19 worse than virus

Precautions make sense but destroying economy in process doesn’t, says Coun. Scott Anderson

‘Always look on the sunny side,’ Okanagan senior says

Heaton Place resident shares story of growing up in Roaring Twenties

92-year-old Vernon woman crochets 1,000 toques for donation

Daisy Ferguson has been working on the toque project for the past six years

COVID-19: ‘Think before you click,’ north Okanagan city says

City of Armstrong urges residents stay safe online as phone, email scams on rise amid pandemic

Most Read