Safety Prep Key When Considering Avalanche Danger - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Safety Prep Key When Considering Avalanche Danger

Avalanches are serious business when it comes to spending time in the great outdoors of Montana, and the recent string of injuries and fatalities have brought that into full focus.

"We had our first avalanche fatality.  It was a snowmobiler yesterday.  Also, it was a party of three…one of them was buried…two of them were buried…one partially, the one that was fully buried didn't make it," said Mark Staples of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

When you decide to hit the slopes outside of a treated ski area, it's important to be prepared with a locater beacon, a probe and a metal snow shovel.  Make sure you travel with a partner, because they may only have minutes to help you if danger strikes.

"He has just a very small window to come get you.  He's got about 10 minutes.  You have an 80% chance of survival if your partner can dig you out in 10 minutes.  That falls to 40% chance of survival in 12 minutes, so two more minutes later, your odds are less than a coin toss," said Staples.

If you're planning a ski, snowboard or snowmobile trip, how can recent weather indicate avalanche danger?

"What you want to look for is your temperature trend.  Have you had some cold clear nights?  Have you had some warm days in between?  Have you had any warm enough temperatures that you may have had rain on that snow that would create a crust, a great layer for a future snow to slide on?" said Gina Loss, NWS Hydrologist.

While some parts of the Treasure state may see a few more avalanche warnings, any region of Montana can be susceptible to a killer snow slide.

"The thing in Montana, with the mountains that we have, I would be cautious on of the snow pack in any of them, and that is because of our changing temperatures.  We have the real cold air.  We have the really warm air in the middle of the winter.  We have such fluctuation in our conditions that that will change that surface pack.  It might create a nice slide layer for any snowfall that comes later.  And again, you're going to get several layers that form and the collapse of any one of those layers is going to be a trigger for an avalanche," said Loss.

For more information or to sign-up for avalanche safety classes, you can visit mtavalanche.com.

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