Avalanche paths on Mount Fernie. (Image courtesy of Alpine Solutions Avalanche Services)

City receives new avalanche modelling for area

Six avalanche paths pose a risk to key city infrastructure

  • Feb. 3, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The City of Fernie has received an updated Snow Avalanche Hazard Assessment of the area around the municipality, with only three avalanche paths identified that encroach upon Fernie’s municipal boundaries.

According to Cam Campbell of Alpine Solutions Avalanche Services, the three paths identified through modelling are on Mount Fernie and cross the municipal boundary in the Alpine Trails neighbourhood, with only a handful of residential lots affected.

Campbell said that according to modelling, portions of those residential lots fall into a ‘blue zone’ for avalanche hazards where he said occupied buildings were recommended to only be permitted with specified conditions.

Campbell said that ‘blue zones’ fell under modelling which saw avalanches every few hundred years, noting that in Europe they build in blue zones “all the time” due to limited land availability.

Most of the lots within the blue zone are undeveloped. The City of Fernie’s director of planning, Bruce Lennox said that when the lots were sold the buyers would have been aware of potential risk, as the previous avalanche modelling showed the same area was within an avalanche zone.

No part of the City of Fernie or any lots within the municipality fall within a ‘red zone’ where construction is recommended to not be permitted.

Another six paths were identified that had the potential to impact the infrastructure and facilities associated with Fairy Creek and city water.

The water infrastructure at Fairy Creek falls outside of municipal boundaries, prompting Coun. Phil Iddon to float the possibility of potentially expanding the boundaries to include the critical infrastructure, which is the City of Fernie’s primary source of water.

Campbell recommended that the city incorporate the new avalanche hazard zone map into the official community plan (OCP), update zoning bylaws for new development for occupied structures, and develop an avalanche safety plan for Fairy Creek operational staff.

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