Avalanche danger remains considerable in Northwest Montana and could worsen with expected high temperatures this weekend, according to the latest backcountry avalanche advisory issued Friday by the U.S. Forest Service.
Following the arrival of moist, heavy snowfall this week, backcountry recreationists should take precaution at elevations above 5,500 feet and on steep, open slopes and gullies, avalanche specialist Stan Bones said in the advisory. Areas that have received new snow and rain have an increased danger, he said.
Bones described current conditions as “fairly complex,” and warned backcountry users to be alert about potential rapid changes in weather and snow conditions.
Avalanche risk could significantly increase on Saturday and Sunday, when temperatures are expected to be some of the warmest of the season so far.
Avalanche sightings continue to be reported throughout the region. Several small to moderate slides were reported in the John Stevens Canyon area west of Marias Pass recently. The avalanches were both natural and triggered, Bones said.
Another significant crack nearly turned into an avalanche near the Kimmerly Basin area near Columbia Falls. The fracture extended almost 30 feet at the top of a large avalanche path, Bones said. Other reports have posted at Glacier Country Avalanche Center’s website. The number of avalanches deaths in the U.S. this winter has reached 29, the most in two years.
According to the latest advisory, human triggered avalanches are likely and the likelihood of natural slab and loose snow avalanches is possible. Many areas are prone to small avalanches and larger slides could happen in areas with slopes greater than 30 degrees.
Avalanche and snow conditions can change rapidly, Bones said. Backcountry users are advised to make their own hazard evaluations and always carry the proper equipment, like transceivers, probes and shovels.
For more information about the local avalanche danger, visit Flathead National Forest’s website.
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