Avalanche warning issued through Friday
Northwest Montana avalanche forecasters issued a special warning Thursday for elevated danger in the backcountry due to recent heavy snowfall.
The Flathead Avalanche Center bulletin warned that the new snowfall could create dangerous slabs up to 2 feet thick on buried weak layers in the snowpack. The special warning was in effect through Friday.
People recreating in the backcountry were warned to avoid slopes steeper than 30 degrees, and to be aware of signs of instability such as shooting cracks and collapsing snowpack.
The storm that began Wednesday dumped up to 14 inches of snow on low and mid elevations of Glacier National Park, with the Whitefish Range reporting about 8 inches.
Columbia Falls reported nearly 7 inches, as of Thursday afternoon, with 6 inches reported west of Kalispell.
Snow was expected to continue through Thursday, with an additional 4-8 inches possible in the backcountry. Scattered snow showers could linger Friday in some locations.
Flathead Avalanche forecaster Mark Dundas noted in his Thursday report that avoiding steep slopes was the best approach to safe backcountry travel during this period of elevated avalanche danger.
“An experienced backcountry user noted instability on his tour yesterday and heeded the warnings by sticking to low-angle terrain,” Dundas wrote. “He didn’t mention it, but I bet his group had a great day of powder skiing without the stress of avalanche hazards.
“We are all rusty with our rescue skills and traveling in the mountains. Ease into the season, so you can enjoy many more powder days.”