The avalanche danger is MODERATE for the West Central Montana backcountry. Avalanches can be triggered in isolated locations across the region. Before traveling in avalanche terrain, carefully evaluate and identify areas of concern.
Good morning, this is Logan King with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center’s avalanche advisory for March 3rd, 2018. 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 are cold again this morning ranging from 6-11 degrees across the advisory area. Winds across the region are light at 9 mph gusting to 11 mph from the SE. No new snow was picked up overnight but a brief period of snow yesterday brought 1-4 inches to some mountain locations.
Travis and I were riding in Spruce Creek yesterday. We found the surface snow to be dense, even at upper elevations. Air and wind temps were mild until mid-day. A strong front pushed through dropping temperatures, and snow while winds increased drastically. The change was short-lived and cold clear conditions settled in overnight.
The primary avalanche concern is wind slabs above 6,000 feet. Before the surface snow got heavy, strong and shifting winds deposited snow into small pockets and near ridges. We observed multiple natural wind slab failures yesterday and have received reports of natural and human triggered wind slabs as well through the week. Wind slabs are spotty across various terrain so carefully look for identify features like drifts, rounded pillows of snow and striations in the snow surface to identify potential ares for avalanche activity. Before entering avalanche terrain thoroughly evaluate the snow to determine if it has been wind affected and has the potential to avalanche.
Wet loose avalanches at upper elevations and wet slab avalanches at lower elevations are possible. Wet avalanche problems will primarily be focused on the southern half of the compass and will increase through the afternoon today. Look for indicators like rollerballs to identify that the surface is becoming saturated to key you into when a move to cooler aspects is required.
Persistent slabs are also a concern today. Facets and cold preserved snow have created some weak layers in the snowpack and are suspect in areas where a slab is above the weak layers. These layers are widespread across the region but most locations still lack the overlying slab. Take a minute to dig a pit and identify if there is a harder layer above that will allow for slab failures.
Avalanche and Weather Outlook
Conditions will be clear today before another round of light snow sets up for tonight into Sunday morning. The avalanche danger will not change today other than the increasing wet activity as the temperatures rise through the day.
If you are out in the backcountry, please send us your observation, these are very helpful in producing the advisory.
Ski and ride safe.