Montana Outdoors

Jan 9, 2013 10:10 PM by Laura Wilson - KAJ News

Check avalanche conditions before venturing out

KALISPELL - This week's Glacier National Park avalanche that sent a Missoula man to the hospital has Flathead National Forest officials saying that recreationists should check conditions before heading out.

Two Montana men were lucky to survive an avalanche on Elk Mountain, west of Marias Pass, but one of them did suffer significant injuries after being partially buried.

The 35-year-old Missoula resident remains in the hospital with head lacerations, six fractured ribs, a broken arm and a puncture wound in his upper thigh.

The avalanche was triggered Tuesday afternoon, while the Missoula man, and a Whitefish man were skiing down Elk Mountain.

They were able to reach someone on their phone and contacted park dispatch.

The two men were rescued around 6:30 p.m, and the 35-year-old was taken to the hospital, while the other man was able to go home.

Avalanche conditions at the time of the slide were listed as "considerable."

Flathead National Forest Service spokesman Wade Muehlof says checking conditions before heading into the back country isn't always enough to keep yourself safe.

"When we put out the advisory, it is good for 24 hours and it is very general. It's based on what we've been able to go out and look at in the field. It's for the general conditions, but it's for a very wide area. Weather can change very quickly."

The Flathead Avalanche Center is hosting a series of Advanced Avalanche Awareness classes, which cover safety equipment, checking avalanche advisory updates, and avalanche education.

The series of classes includes two field sessions, where people can learn how and where to test for avalanches in the backcountry.

"A change in temperature can change the conditions. More precipitation will change the conditions. There are a number of factors. That's why you want to be prepared, know what you're doing, and get the education so that when you're in the field, you're able to do your own testing. You're able to know what the conditions are."

Two of the classes have already taken place, but there are still two more classroom sessions and two more field days-and they are free to the public. Click here to learn more.

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