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To Improve Avalanche Forecasts, Kootenai Forest Splits Them In Two

Skier, file photo.
Skier, file photo.

The Kootenai National Forest is making changes for more accurate avalanche forecasting this winter.

The Kootenai National Forest is splitting its avalanche forecast in two: one report covers the western part of the forest, which shares characteristics with the Idaho Panhandle. A separate forecast is issued for the Whitefish Range, which more closely resembles conditions in the Flathead National Forest.

Ben Bernall is the avalanche specialist on the Kootenai National Forest. He says terrain and weather patterns differ enough across the forest to warrant separate reports.

"Arbitrary forest boundary lines are less important than what makes sense on the ground and what will make sense to the users."

Avalanche forecasts are posted twice a week online by the Flathead Avalanche Center and the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

Avalanche danger is rated as considerable to high across the Kootenai and Flathead National Forests. Bernall says the present snowfall is burying weaker layers, which could set the stage for snow slides.

"Really perfect conditions for creating avalanches right now," Bernall says.

You can find avalanche forecasts for western Montana here:

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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