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‘Avalanche season is here’

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A skier remotely triggered an avalanche on Mount Blackmore on Nov. 9. PHOTO COURTESY OF GNFAC

Slides recorded on Mount Blackmore and at Bridger Bowl

GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST AVALANCHE CENTER

The local avalanche center issued a pre-season forecast on Thursday after a round of storms dropped several inches of snow in local mountain ranges, tempting people out into the backcountry for early-season turns.

The forecast reads: Since Tuesday morning the mountains have received 10-12 inches around West Yellowstone and Cooke City, and 1-4 inches near Big Sky and Bozeman. Strong east winds on Tuesday shifted west and south yesterday, calming to 10-15 mph with gusts of 25-35 mph this morning. Temperatures will remain chilly with highs only reaching the teens and 20s Fahrenheit through the weekend. Winds will remain moderate and generally westerly for the next few days. An inch or two of snow is possible around West Yellowstone today before conditions turn dry until at least the middle of next week.

The crown and runout of the Nov. 9 avalanche on Mount Blackmore. PHOTO COURTESY OF GNFAC

The snow is starting to pile up and triggering an avalanche is very much a possibility today and through the weekend. Storm totals since Monday are around 2 feet near West Yellowstone and Cooke City, and around 1 foot near Bozeman and Big Sky. Strong winds from both the east and west have blown this new snow into deep, cohesive drifts that could avalanche today. Look for and avoid these wind drifts, as they are where you’re most likely to trigger a slide.

Yesterday, a skier triggered an avalanche near the summit of Mount Blackmore that broke 50 feet below him. It broke 10-18 inches deep, 150 ft wide and ran 600 vertical ft over cliffs. Thankfully no one was caught. Skiers at Bridger Bowl also got a small pocket to propagate in the new snow around 6 inches deep.

Take note—avalanche season is here. Travel is becoming easier with 2-4 feet of snow on the ground in many areas. This also means that avalanches can break deeper and wider. Travel in the backcountry like you would any day mid-winter or avoid steep slopes entirely. Avalanche rescue gear (beacon, shovel, and probe) and a partner are essential if you’re going into avalanche terrain.

If you get out, please share avalanche, snowpack or weather observations via our website, email (mtavalanche@gmail.com), phone (406-587-6984), or Instagram (#gnfacobs).

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