Flathead Avalanche Center Extends Backcountry Avalanche Warning

Travel in avalanche terrain in the Whitefish, Swan and Flathead ranges and Glacier National Park is not recommended as high temperatures increase danger rating

By Maggie Dresser
An avalanche in the slide-prone canyon known as "Avalanche Alley" near Marias Pass. Beacon file photo

The Flathead Avalanche Center (FAC) has extended a backcountry avalanche warning through Tuesday morning in Flathead, Lake and Lincoln counties amid prolonged warm and sunny weather that has caused dangerous conditions, according to a Flathead National Forest news release.

Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended in the Whitefish, Swan and Flathead ranges, along with Glacier National Park on or below steep slopes above 5,000 feet.

Natural and triggered avalanches involving wet snow are likely on both sunny and shady slopes, with hard slabs likely to fail on deeply buried weak layers. Overhanging cornices can break spontaneously, triggering large to very large avalanches on the slopes below.

Multiple large hard slab avalanches have occurred in the past three days throughout the forecasting area, which experts say probably failed on buried weak layers. Debris from these slides can run the full length of avalanche paths, which would likely be fatal, FAC forecaster Cam Johnson wrote in today’s avalanche forecast.

Avalanche professionals have identified several recent natural avalanches in the region, which includes a wet slide that left 10 feet of debris on the heavily trafficked Canyon Creek Road outside of Whitefish Mountain Resort, according to the March 18 avalanche forecast.

High pressure will dominate the Northern Rockies over the next few days with temperatures reaching the 50s at upper elevations. High temperatures at low elevations could reach the lower 70s, according to the National Weather Service.

A Canadian cold front is expected to push along the Continental Divide and Glacier National Park on Wednesday, with cooler and wetter conditions beginning Thursday.