MISSOULA — Novice and experienced sportsmen alike attended the annual avalanche safety seminar at Big Sky Brewing -- hosted by Gull Boats & RV -- to hear expert avalanche instructor Mike Duffy offer training and tips.
He said that regardless of someone’s experience level, he notices people making one big mistake year in and year out, "snowmobilers are not checking the avalanche forecast, and you’re pretty much running blind in that situation."
Travis Craft, director of the West Central Montana Avalanche Center says you can check those conditions at missoulaavalanche.org.
“It gives you some basic travel advice on what our avalanche problems are that day- if it’s wind-driven snow, if it’s a new snow problem, or if it’s a buried weak layer in our snowpack, Craft said of the website. "It gives you a good starting point.”
Craft says once you’ve checked the website you can then make decisions on which terrain you should recreate on that day.
The two experts added that having the proper gear is also crucial. According to Craft, not only should you carry a beacon, shovel, probe and avalanche airbag, but you should have a partner with you as well.
Once you have the equipment and training down, Duffy says there’s just one more tip," living in an area like this you have to be patient. You have to be disciplined. Wait for the conditions to be right before you do the big climbs.”
Oftentimes, human factors and choice of terrain are the leading causes of avalanche accidents, so experts say that being proactive and knowing both the dangers and rescue techniques for an avalanche can keep you from getting trapped on the wrong side of a slide.