HELENA — An avalanche warning was issued Monday for much of the western mountains in Montana. An upcoming stormy stretch following a prolonged period of not much activity has set the stages for large, potentially deadly slides.
Avalanches will run long distances and be large enough to bury and kill a person. According to the Flathead Avalanche Center, a division of the U.S. Forest Service, avalanches have already been active, and conditions will worsen.
Over the weekend, three separate groups of skiers triggered avalanches in the northern Bridger Mountains. One person was caught in the slide but was unharmed.
At Teton Pass Ski Resort, avalanche mitigation work triggered this large slide in the area of Joe's Wave. The avalanche runout followed a typical path. The ski area proactively triggers avalanches to keep in-bounds skiers and riders safe. Backcountry riders do not have this same luxury.
This week, a storm from the Pacific will produce very heavy precipitation in the western mountains. Snow in the highest elevations could exceed 5 feet. Much warmer air will create not only rising snow levels but very heavy, wet snow in the mountains.
Much of January and February were fairly dry with inconsistent storms. This drier stretch allowed for weak layers to develop in the mountains. as this new storm drops heavy precipitation on top of these weak layers, large and possibly deadly avalanches are likely.
Please use caution this week and especially this weekend as many of us head out to enjoy the snow.