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Groups team up to keep folks safe from avalanches - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Groups team up to keep folks safe from avalanches

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COOKE CITY - This winter has been great for people who like to get out and enjoy the snow but too much of a good thing can mean danger in the backcountry.

 “Every time we have a death it just shakes this community, it shuts the community down and people stay away, and we don’t want that. We want to bring people into our community and make sure that they are safe while they are here,” said Mona Abelseth with Cooke City Motor Sports.

Snowmobiles have become more advanced and powerful in the past 20 years, allowing people to travel further into the backcountry and avalanche terrain.

“Since 1998, there have been 80 fatalities in Montana and 19 -- so almost 25% -- were in Cooke City. So, it gets a lot of traffic, really big terrain there, a lot of snowfall so just all the ingredients are there to make it a deadly area,” observed Alex Marienthal with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center..

The Center has partnered with Montana State Parks to offer a weekly avalanche safety training throughout the winter to help counter the rise of avalanche accidents in Cooke City.

”We decided to implement a weekly program where we would have an instructor give basic awareness talk on Friday nights and talk about avalanche terrain and rescue if something bad does happen and then give a weekly conditions update,” Marienthal said.

With snow enthusiasts coming from around the world, this avalanche safety training has been a success. In the two years of the program there have been no avalanche fatalities in the area.

“We really feel that these avalanche trainings the lectures and the in-field training is helping it is saving lives,” Abelseth said.

The avalanche safety training courses are going on until the end of March.

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