The avalanche danger in the west-central Montana backcountry is MODERATE.

Good Morning. This is Travis Craft with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center advisory on Saturday, March 27, 2021. This advisory is sponsored by Loose Caboose. This advisory does not apply to operating ski areas and expires at midnight tonight. The USDA Forest Service is solely responsible for its content.

Weather and Snowpack

Temperatures range from 25 to 31 degrees this morning. .1 to .3 SWE in the last 24 hours. Winds will be increasing over the weekend potential gusts greater than 50 mph by Sunday.

Yesterday we found the new snow was not bonding well to old snow surfaces and interfaces. The new snow was easy to trigger as sluffs and where it was deeper than 8 inches or warming was propagating and producing shooting cracks form skis. Loose wet was observed on slopes below 5500 ft. With warming temperatures and sun expect loose wet to increase throughout the day. Terrain traps such as gullies concentrate the depth and strength of these slides. Obstacles such as cliffs or rocks will increase the likelihood of trauma. Cracking from skis or machines will be good indicators of this problem.

Winds have created small to large wind slabs on ridges and start zones. Shooting cracks are a sign of instability.

Facets are in our snowpack buried in the top third of the snowpack. Not reactive yesterday, but should be investigated.

Cornices and glide cracks will be with us for the rest of the season. These are two unpredictable avalanche problems. The cornices remaining after the warmth are a hazard. This hazard will increase with warmth, sun, or rain. Give them a wide berth above and stay out from underneath. Glide cracks will have opened and accelerated with the warmth. While slowed, they are still opening despite cold temperatures as the ground beneath the snowpack remains unfrozen. They can fail unexpectedly, creating full-depth avalanches. Stay off slopes where they are present.

Bottom Line

Use caution today and do your homework before committing to steep terrain. Warming temperatures will increase avalanche danger throughout the day. Roller balls are signs to change aspect.Use small test slopes and hand pits to check new snow depth and bonding to old snow surfaces. Dig a pit. Pay attention to terrain traps. Search for instabilities, not stability. Reassess conditions throughout the day and stay alert for signs of instability. Look for red flags. Carry a beacon, shovel, and probe.

Upcoming Education Events

 Please visit our education page for an up-to-date list of regional events and course offerings. Below are new educational opportunities to check out this week.

Public Observations

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to send in a public observation. Please keep sharing what you find and see while out in the backcountry. You can now text us your observations to (406) 219-5566 when you don’t have time to fill out the observations page.

Ski and ride safe.