WHAT PART OF ‘CLOSED’ DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND? Snowmobile tracks found at Mine 2B despite avalanche ban – on same day one is seen nearby; barriers now blocking route


Photo by Elizabeth Bourne

Some snowmobilers took a ride to the off-limits Mine 2B in Nybyen and yet another avalanche was triggered from the dangerously snow-laded mountains on Sunday – although fortunately for the trespassers not at the same time.

But the city, accepting the reality that some people obviously can’t grasp reality themselves, set up barricades on the snow trail after the tracks were spotted in order to make it clear the area is extra-extra off-limits.

“There are new snowmobile tracks at Mine 2B,” an announcement posted at the city of Longyearbyen’s website states. “Some scooter traffic has been registered in the area towards the traffic ban zone. We ask people to be careful and choose riverbed lanes as traffic arteries up to the Longyear Glacier.”

The snowmobile trail and buildings along the mountain in Nybyen have been off-limits since April 9 due to deep and stable snowpack resulting from heavy snow/wind storms the past month. Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said when the order was issued one of the main concerns is cornices up to seven meters high hanging over the area, and the evacuation will remain in place until they no longer pose a threat.

Assessments of the situation are being made weekly, not daily, suggesting the order may be in place for some time. The governor’s office announced Thursday the ban is indeed being upheld another week.

Numerous small and large avalanches have been triggered in Nybyen the past few weeks, both from the cornices and lower down. On Sunday a relatively small slide was triggered from a cornice, but like the other slides did not hit any structures or trap people.

Dozens of other avalanche have been observed elsewhere in Svalbard, although despite a couple of close calls none so far have put people or buildings in danger. A Level Three (“considerable”) risk level exists for the Longyearbyen vicinity and areas within day-trip range until at least Tuesday, according to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate.

The weather forecast for Longyearbyen calls for temperatures slight above or below freezing through Tuesday, with some rain/snow expected Monday and Tuesday, with colder temperatures and partly cloudy skies the rest of the week.