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Avalanche Danger Rising Across Western Montana

Reviewing Avalanche Safety With 'Field Notes'
Avalanche danger is rising across western Montana.

New snow is piling up on top of a weak base in western Montana’s backcountry. That’s why the West Central Montana Avalanche Center bumped the avalanche danger rating to ‘considerable’ through Wednesday morning.

The Avalanche Center’s Steve Karkanen says the little bit of snow that fell in November is now buried and getting more sensitive to additional weight. Recent strong winds above 8,000 feet have also piled up lots of snow.

"Basically any leeward slope is heavily loaded right now, on top of that already weak layer of snow at the base of the snowpack. It’s an appropriate time to be extra cautious out there."

Strong wind combined with a foot of new snow in the Swan Range has also increased the avalanche danger. Similar snow conditions have led to a “high” avalanche danger rating across the entire Bridger, Madison and Lionhead ranges.

Doug Chabot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center says anyone playing in the backcountry snow needs to carry – and know how to use – rescue gear.

"Which is an avalanche beacon, a shovel and a probe. You don‘t want to go out alone. We really recommend you bring a partner with you because if you’re caught in an avalanche and buried, your only hope of survival is your partner coming and digging you out.”

A North Dakota snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche north of Cooke City on Saturday.

Montana Avalanche Forecasts:

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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