The current avalanche danger is LOW for the west central Montana backcountry.  Human triggered avalanches are still possible in isolated terrain.

Good morning, this is Travis Craft with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center’s avalanche advisory for January 26, 2017.  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 12 F to 21 F in the region. Winds are 5 mph with gusts of 7 mph out of the WSW in the Bitterroot.  Point Six, in the northern part of the advisory area, winds are reading 7 mph with gusts of 10 mph out of the WNW.  Some snotels are not reporting this morning.  The North Fork of the Jocko received 8 inches of snow in the last 24 hours with a SWE of .5 inches of water.  The other sites that are reporting received 2-3 new inches of snow with .1 inches of water.

Logan and I did an extended tour in the Rattlesnake, yesterday.  Tim and Greg took the sleds to Spruce Creek in the central Bitterroot.  We dug several pits on multiple aspects and elevations.  The instabilities in our snowpack are healing.  We were not able to get any propagation in any of our pit tests.  The new snow is very low density and has come in with the very little wind.

The primary avalanche concern is loose dry avalanches.  These sluffs are small and very low energy.  They will only be a concern if they carry you into a terrain trap.

The second avalanche problem is wind slabs.  These are small and shallow located in isolated pockets on leeward terrain.  You can identify these slabs by smooth rounded pillows on the surface near ridgelines.

The final avalanche concern is persistent slabs.  There are three layers to examine in pits before committing to a slope.  The interface of the new snow and old snow surface.  The rain crust 40 cm to 50 cm from the surface.  Finally, the basal facets near the ground.  These layers have not propagated in any of our observers’ tests for nearly two weeks.  We did get a public observation of propagation on the rain crust in an ECT on Mt. Fuji near, Lolo Pass.  If you get propagation in your pit, choose to back off the slope and ride lower angle terrain.

Avalanche and Weather Outlook

Light snow this morning then clearing skies.  High pressure will build, but there is a chance for some light accumulation of snow on Friday.   With these conditions, the avalanche danger will remain the same.

Join us tonight at the University of Montana in the North Urey Lecture Hall at 6:00 pm for a free lecture on Introduction to Avalanches part 2.

If you are out in the backcountry, please send us your observations, these are very helpful in producing the advisory.  Logan will issue the next advisory on January 28, 2017.

Ski and ride safe.