The current avalanche danger is MODERATE in the west central Montana backcountry. Human triggered avalanches are possible. Heightened avalanche conditions exist in isolated terrain. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully and identify features of concern.

Good morning, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, this is Travis Craft with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center’s avalanche advisory for March 17, 2016. This danger rating does not apply to operating ski areas, expires at midnight tonight and is the sole responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service.

Weather and Snowpack

Mountain temperatures range from 14 F to 23 F in the region. Winds are 08 mph with gusts of 12 mph out of the WSW in the Bitterroot and Point Six in the northern part of the advisory area is 11 mph with gusts of 14 mph out of the NW. The forecast area received 3 to 5 inches of new snow overnight.  In the last 72 hours the region has received around 14 to 16 inches.  Winter has returned.

Steve and I took sleds to the Lolo Pass area yesterday.  The primary avalanche  concern today are wind slabs.  These slabs will be located on leeward terrain.  There has been a lot of new snow with wind,  look for scoured snow or hollow, drumlike sounding snow.  These wind slabs could be triggered by a rider.

The second avalanche problem is dry loose avalanches.  There is a lot of new snow,  these loose dry avalanches will be found on steep slopes (>35 degrees), they should not be a problem unless they carry you into a terrain trap (tree, cliff, or gully).  If the sun comes out expect these to turn to loose wet avalanches on sun exposed slopes.

There are some layers in the top meter of the snowpack to look at.  There are several crusts with facets on top or below the crust.  These layers have become less reactive in the last month but it is always prudent to dig a pit before recreating on a steep slope.

Weather and Avalanche Outlook.

A cold front will bring snow showers to the area today.  The forecast calls for 3-6 inches of new snow today with gusty winds.  High pressure will start to build in the area on Friday.  I would expect the avalanche danger to remain the same with these conditions.

Ski and ride safe.  Have a great St. Patricks Powder Day.  I will issue the next advisory on Saturday.