Apr 5, 2013 @ 7:30 am

April 5, 2013 Avalanche Advisory

Today’s avalanche danger is LOW in the west central Montana backcountry.

Good morning!  This is Steve Karkanen with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center’s avalanche advisory for Friday, April 5, 2013.  This is the final avalanche advisory for the season.  Springtime avalanche information will be posted in the next few days.


Weather and Snowpack

A cold front is passing through western Montana this morning with light precipitation.  Mountain temperatures are in the 30’s with SW winds 10-15 with gusts to 40 mph.  Nighttime mountain temperatures have remained above freezing for several days now.

Yesterday, we found mostly stable and hard snow early in the day. By 1 pm,  all but the more northerly aspects were punchy and difficult to ski, especially near rocky areas or trees. Many point release wet slides and roller balls were observed on the steeper slopes above 6000 feet.

The forecasted cooler weather arriving today will set things up like concrete.


What’s Important Now

Mountain temperatures are expected to drop below freezing which will make for great travel and stability conditions.  Until then, it will be important to avoid steep open terrain during warm or sunny days, or during periods of rain.  Easily punching deep into the snow or seeing pinwheels gaining size are good clues that it’s time to move to safer terrain.



Weather Forecast and Avalanche Outlook

Missoula Weather is forecasting a series of wet weather systems to pass over our area starting today.

A cold front is predicted to move into the area with snow levels expected to drop from 6000 feet today to 4000 feet by Sunday. Winds are expected to be in the 10-15 mph range from the SW with 3 to 5 inches of snow.

With these cooler mountain temperatures, the avalanche danger will remain LOW.

When temperatures climb above freezing, there will be an increase in the risk of wet snow avalanches especially at elevations that receive new snow.


Season End

We’re at the end of what will be remembered as an exceptionally safe winter. No avalanche fatalities in Montana this winter!  It’s been a long time since we could say that.  Locally, we issued only one warning for high avalanche danger in early January and investigated one avalanche incident that had a positive outcome (details here).

This can be attributed to a mostly stable early season snowpack, good assessment skills by many of you and, in some cases, shear luck. More people are recreating in avalanche terrain than ever and this year is no exception.

Thanks to all of you for your dedication to staying safe and for your support of the avalanche advisory and education program here.

A general springtime avalanche safety information statement will be posted in the next few days.


This information is the sole responsibility of the Forest Service and does not apply to operating ski areas. The avalanche danger rating expires at midnight tonight but the information can help you make a more informed decision regarding travel in avalanche terrain for the next few days.

Our advisory area includes National Forest System lands in the Bitterroot Mountains from Lost Trail Pass north to Granite Pass, the Rattlesnake Mountains north of Missoula and the Southern Swan and Mission Mountains near Seeley Lake, MT. Avalanche information for the Lookout Pass/St. Regis Basin area is available from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.