In a winter of historic avalanche conditions, a popular mountain highway has been closed after control work triggered a large slide over the road.
Parks Canada has shut the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93 N) from Lake Louise to Saskatchewan River Crossing to clear debris that is 100 metres long and 15 metres deep.
"It's pretty big. That's a size four avalanche and the rating scale for avalanches goes from one to five. It's certainly significant for our area," said Tania Peters, information officer for the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit.
She said they're seeing a "historic avalanche cycle" in the mountains this year with numerous slides that measure 3.5 to 4 on the scale. "We've heard from (Visitor Safety) that this happens every 35 years or so."
The avalanche on Thursday was man-made as Parks Canada staff conducted routine control work on Mount Hector in Banff National Park by dropping explosives from a helicopter. But the slide of snow, trees and other debris was larger than expected.
Motorists are asked to avoid the area and make alternate travel plans. The closure remains in effect until the road can be cleared and further avalanche risk is mitigated. Check www.511.alberta.ca for up-to-date road conditions and status.
This winter has seen near record amounts of snowfall with Sunshine Village recording 484 centimetres since Jan. 1. Only once in the past decade has the ski resort seen that much precipitation, with 555 cm recorded in 2014.
The heavy snowpack is also causing havoc in Kananaskis Country. Alberta Parks is warning the public that numerous large avalanches have started to come down since early Thursday, running deep into the valley bottom. The Kananaskis Public Safety website urges backcountry users to avoid snow slopes and remain on high ground on ridges. The avalanche hazard is expected to continue with warm weather and rain forecast for the weekend.