News & Features

Flathead Avalanche Center to Begin Seasonal Daily Forecasts Dec. 9

Dry weather, thin snowpack yield recipe for avalanche problems in the future

The Flathead Avalanche Center (FAC) will begin issuing daily avalanche forecasts starting Sunday, Dec. 9.

The center, operating under the Flathead National Forest, provides avalanche danger ratings and travel advice for the Whitefish Range, Swan Range, Flathead Range, and Glacier National Park.

“It has been a slow start to winter thus far,” FAC Director Zach Guy stated in a press release, “but it looks like we will be returning to an active and snowy weather pattern next week. Unfortunately, the dry weather and thin snowpack we have right now is a recipe for avalanche problems in the future. Under dry conditions like we have had, the snow coverage quickly evolves into a fragile layer that can plague the snowpack for weeks or months. That’s what we are seeing in the backcountry right now. It’s not a problem at the moment, but once winter storms start adding weight on top of these layers, we expect dangerous avalanche conditions to develop.”

Anyone recreating in the backcountry this winter can access current avalanche conditions and observations at www.flatheadavalanche.org. The FAC also offers a variety of avalanche courses and awareness talks.

The Flathead Avalanche Center continues to evolve to meet increasing needs of winter recreation. “We are increasing our field presence to provide more accurate and useful products,” according to Guy. “Our staff is doing a great job of capturing avalanche conditions using photos and video and turning their observations into teachable moments and useful travel advice. You can still have a ton of fun in the backcountry when conditions are dangerous, it’s all about choosing the right terrain for the right conditions. We illustrate that through our forecasts, social media products, and field observations.”

The center recently hired Blase Reardon as the lead forecaster. Reardon has a wealth of forecasting experience, most recently from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center based out of Aspen, Colorado. His roots snow science roots stem from NW Montana, where he used to forecast for the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier Park.

Blase will be rounding out the forecasting staff alongside Zach Guy, Mark Dundas, and Clancy Nelson. Dundas is in his fourth season with the FAC, and Nelson is a new addition, coming from the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.