VANCOUVER -- Bad weather and a risk of avalanche forced crews to suspend the search for two Vancouver-area men missing in the frigid backcountry of Vancouver's North Shore.

Forty-three-year-old Roy Lee and Chun Lam, who's 64, have been missing since Christmas Day when they set out for a day of snowshoeing at the Cypress Mountain Resort in West Vancouver.

A search began Sunday night after Lee's car was found in the parking lot of the resort, but without a trip plan, searchers have been challenged to trace the pair in the sprawling area.

The West Vancouver Police Department says in a release that the operation was called off late Wednesday afternoon after weather deteriorated and volunteers were put in increasingly dangerous conditions.

Avalanche Canada rates the danger as high for Thursday in the alpine and treeline areas on the South Coast.

The forecasting centre says heavy snowfall on Thursday with strong winds and mild temperatures will form widespread storm slabs driving the danger higher and travel in the area is not recommended.

Mike Danks with North Shore Rescue says the conditions are not safe for rescue crews.

"We're expecting about 40 centimetres of snow in the next 24 hours and high winds up at the mountain tops," he said. "We just can't have our guys out there."

Police say the status of the search "will be reviewed on a daily basis pending improvement in search area conditions."

Members of North Shore Rescue were optimistic late Tuesday after making what they hoped was voice contact with the pair, but fading light and increasingly dangerous conditions forced suspension of the search before contact could be confirmed.

Danks said rescuers were returning to Strachan Mountain, north of the resort, but the weather was not in their favour and snow and clouds were hampering the use of helicopters.

About 20 searchers and at least two aircraft were involved in the rescue effort.