The federal government won't restrict access to Canada's vast wilderness even when the risk of avalanches is extreme, but an updated warning system will help people make safer decisions, says Environment Minister Jim Prentice.
Prentice announced an avalanche danger scale in Calgary Wednesday, just days after a massive slide buried dozens of people attending a snowmobile rally in the backcountry near Revelstoke, B.C.
Two people died in that slide on Boulder Mountain despite repeated warnings of high avalanche risk.
The new scale builds on one that was already in place by Parks Canada. It continues to have five conditions ranging from low to extreme, but Prentice said it paints a much clearer picture of the risk involved.
The warnings show the likelihood of avalanches being triggered, their expected size and whether travel is recommended.
The icons are made so a skier who might not understand the writing next to the warning will still recognize pictures showing what kind of risk is involved.
It was developed with consultation from the Canadian Avalanche Centre and the United States Forest Service and will be put in place across North America.
"This is the most comprehensive and complete avalanche warning system designed to date," said Prentice.
Ian Tomm, head of the Canadian Avalanche Centre, said the warning system will help make it completely clear to people when they should be willing to take a risk.
"We still have a lot of work to do. We need look no further than the incident at Boulder Mountain just a couple of days ago to know that," he said.
"We remain in awe of the power of nature, and we know we can never lose respect for its authority," said the minister.
Both the governments of Alberta and British Columbia have weighed in on whether there is a need for more regulation following last weekend's avalanche.
B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed said the province will move ahead with previously announced plans to register all off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, and implement safety measures such as mandatory helmet use.