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 March 21, 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 29 F to 34 F in the region. Winds are 16 mph with gusts of 23 mph out of the SE in the Bitterroot. Point Six, in the northern part of the advisory area, winds are 12 mph with gusts of 16 mph out of the ESE.  The area received 0 to 1 new inches of snow. The new snow had SWE’s ranging from .1 to .2 inches of water.

Logan and I took the sleds to Granite Pass in the northern Bitterroot yesterday.  Josh is at Yurtski in the southern Swan.  We all found a snowpack that was locked up due to the freezing temperatures in the mountains.  With very little sun and high winds, the snowpack did not warm above freezing yesterday. Temperatures are rising this morning and most snotel sites got below freezing last night again locking up the snowpack.

The primary avalanche problem is loose wet releases in the afternoon.  With warming temperatures and intermittent showers, today look for roller balls and pinwheels.  These are clues to surface instability, and it is time to change aspects.

The secondary avalanche concern is cornices.  Warming temperatures are weakening cornices. Give them a wide berth.

Avalanche and Weather Outlook

Warming temperatures today and possible showers with light accumulations.  Temperatures should drop below freezing tonight above 6000 feet.  With wind and cloud cover the avalanche danger should stay the same.  If the sun does come out, look for the avalanche danger to rise on sun-exposed slopes in the afternoon.

If you are out in the backcountry, please send us your observations, these are very helpful in producing the advisory.  I will issue the next advisory on March 23, 2017.

Ski and ride safe.