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Avalanche awareness stressed in Western Montana

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Posted at 1:04 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 13:40:16-05

MISSOULA - With the holidays just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get out and enjoy the snow we’ve received here so far in Montana.

But if you’re headed to the backcountry, it’s important to be aware of the potential for avalanches as we’ve already seen one this year in Cooke City.

Most people from Missoula will remember the 2014 Mount Jumbo avalanche that claimed one woman's life. And New Year's Day will mark the third anniversary of the avalanche by Seeley Lake that killed two Anaconda men.

Montana This Morning’s Dani Hallows chatted with the director of the West Central Missoula Avalanche Center to find out what the backcountry will look like for us this season.

"If this season so far is any indication of how things will go, snow will keep building, it’ll get more stable, and things will get better. But none of us has a crystal ball, and anything can happen," advised Jeff Carty.

Carty is part of the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation team - which held it’s first avalanche awareness event in-person since COVID on Wednesday night at the University of Montana.

Backcountry enthusiasts of every type were there, including one skier, Jamie Scoular, who has firsthand experience with an avalanche.

“I turned around and everything had come loose behind me and luckily it was a flat area that I was on, so it didn’t catch up with me, but it did bury a couple of our dogs,” Scoular explained.

While Jamie’s dogs and team with him were okay, he comes to these events to make sure he stays on top of his avalanche awareness.

“I think it’s important always to just go over the basics, remember the things you might have forgotten and even to meet some people you might go out the backcountry with.”

The West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation director has triggered and seen avalanches as well. His forecast expertise says that this season is starting off a little unstable, but it could change.

“The biggest hazard to recreationists is just not knowing what they don’t know, you can get yourself into trouble pretty quickly if you can’t recognize avalanche terrain, use an inclinometer, or understand what the avalanche problems are or what an avalanche is. You really need educate yourself first before you go out of bounds and step out into the backcountry," Carty said.

Carty also said that this year is expected to be a busy backcountry year.

Avalanche courses from the foundation are already booked out through January, but the latest advisory and additional information can be found at