Posted: Jan 11, 2013 1:46 PM by Meteorologist Mike Heard
Updated: Jan 11, 2013 1:53 PM
Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest Service is advising us that avalanche danger in SW Montana high and warning recreationists to avoid travel on steep snow covered slopes. Two weeks of cold, dry weather has weakened the old snow surface and with fresh new snow on top of this older, weaker snow may produce avalanches, especially if further stressed by the weight of a snowmobiler or skier.
Forest Service avalanche specialists advise that avoidance of avalanche terrain is the most effective way to safely recreate when snow and avalanche conditions are poor. Avalanche slopes are typically between 30 and 45 degrees steepness. "Not every day is a good day to highmark or ski a steep slope. Avoiding slopes greater than about 30 degrees is a good idea right now because of the combination of the weak old snow surface and the significant new snow load." said Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest avalanche safety coordinator Alex Dunn. Trails and low-angle meadows without steep slopes above them are generally safer terrain choices at times of poor snow stability. Additionally, avoidance of avalanche runout zones below steep slopes is also recommended.
Forest Service officials recommend that all wintertime backcountry travelers educate themselves through a variety of ways including reading, on-line resources, and taking an avalanche safety class.