The avalanche danger in the west central Montana backcountry is rated at moderate. Loose, wet slides are the main problem; but there is potential to trigger a slab avalanche on slopes steeper than 35 degrees above 7000 feet.
Good morning this is Logan King with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center’s advisory for February 13, 2015. The danger rating does not apply to operating ski areas, is the sole responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service and expires at midnight.
Avalanche and Weather Discussion
Mountain temperatures this morning are 28-31F except for the northern reaches of advisory area which is above freezing. The winds are out of the WNW at 21 and gusting to 28 mph at Point Six.
No significant precipitation has been recorded in the forecast area except the southern extent that received 2 inches of snow. The high pressure system continues to dominate the region keeping temperatures above normal.
Steve and Tim were in the Rattlesnake and saw warm wet surface snow moving naturally and were able to get propagation in an extended column test. The propagation is occurring on a buried layer of facets and surface hoar located on a January crust.
Similar problems were observed throughout the advisory area. There was a skier trigged slide on this layer near Lost Trail last week and a significant slide that likely ran on this layer as well on Sky Pilot in the central Bitterroot. (public observation).
Travis and I toured near Gash Point in the central Bitterroot and were also able to get similar layers to propagate, in areas with a shallow snowpack. A significant number of loose wet point releases were observed continually during the day.
The primary avalanche concern is wet loose snow slides and sluffs but persistent weaknesses that are in the snowpack continue to be reactive under the right conditions. The distribution of this layer varies throughout the advisory area so take the time to look for this problematic layer; you will have to dig to find it.
Weather and Avalanche Outlook
High pressure and unseasonably warm temps are expected to continue with cooler temps and more active patterns developing Saturday evening. Avalanche conditions will remain the same until the weather patterns shift.
Travis Craft will issue the next regularly scheduled advisory on Tuesday, February 17th. Have a great Presidents Day weekend.