Free Avalanche Awareness Classes

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead Valley offers some of the state’s more rugged and scenic terrain for backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. But with the added thrills, also comes added risk: Last year, we saw several avalanche-related deaths in the area.

So, here’s the good news: The Flathead National Forest in partnership with Glacier Country Avalanche Center is sponsoring several FREE avalanche awareness clinics in the Flathead Valley. Take advantage.

A basic avalanche awareness class will be hosted Thursday, Dec. 4, from 6:30 p.m – 8:30 p.m. at the Whitefish Library.

In addition, two Avalanche Level One workshops will be hosted in January. These workshops consist of four evening lectures followed by two field sessions and meet the American Avalanche Association Level One guidelines. The programs include information about avalanche terrain, mountain weather and snowpack, stability evaluation and decision making and avalanche rescue. Participants are encouraged to attend all sessions to gain maximum benefit.

The first Avalanche Level One workshop will be focused for down-hill and cross-country skiers, snowboarders, snowshoe enthusiasts and mountaineers. Classes will be held at the Flathead National Forest Office in Kalispell on Jan. 5, 7, 12, and 14, with field sessions on Jan. 10 and 17.

The other Avalanche Level One workshop will be focused for snowmobilers on Jan. 26 and 28, Feb. 2 and 4, with field sessions on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7.

Registration is not required for any of the workshops but participants are encouraged to contact the Flathead National Forest at 758-5295 or visit www.glacieravalanche.org for more information.

The Flathead National Forest issues avalanche advisories for Northwest Montana throughout the winter, beginning the first Friday in December or as weather conditions warrant. Advisories are issued once a week, on Friday mornings, until the third week in December when they are issued Tuesday and Friday mornings until April. Advisories include information about snowpack conditions, weather forecasts, and hazard evaluations. Visit www.glacieravalanche.org or call 406-257-8402 for these advisories. Anyone traveling in the backcountry will always need to make their own time and site specific avalanche hazard evaluations.