The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center reports there have been 15 natural and human triggered avalanches in southwest Montana in the last 18 days.
While those numbers may be shocking to some, Tommy Rupp at Round House Sports in Bozeman says most Montanans are aware of the dangers of avalanches.
“The nice thing about living in the state of Montana is there’s a lot of base knowledge when it comes to avalanche conditions, avalanche safety and everything like that,” said Rupp.
“So, with regards to that, we don’t have to worry about a large dip in business due to safety concerns or anything like that,” he added.
But avalanche tragedies and increased awareness have shifted customer focus to safety over recent years.
“There’s a lot more drive to the safety side of things than is to, 'oh, I’m just gonna grab my skis and go into the backcountry skiing’,” said Rupp.
Rupp has seen more and more people investing in backcountry safety, from the must-have beacons to shovels and probes and airbag backpacks.
If worn and deployed properly, an airbag pack can increase chances of survival and can reduce trauma.
“They make you larger than you are but at the same time, they want to give you protection around the back and the neck,” said Rupp.
Rupp says safety equipment is important in the backcountry, but most importantly, safety comes with knowledge and awareness, as well as being around other experienced people in the backcountry.
“If you don’t have the background or knowledge of how to use your safety equipment, if you aren’t certified, that equipment is only going to take you so far and it’s only going to do some much.”
You can learn more about avalanche education workshops and classes at the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center webpage.