Dec 2, 2011 @ 8:34 am

December 2 Information Update

Good morning, this is Dudley Improta with an information update from the West Central Montana Avalanche Center. We will begin posting regular advisories on Friday and Monday mornings beginning Dec. 16. Hazard warnings and bulletins will be posted when warranted.


The Snow Gods are a touchy group. Talk about La Nina too much and they’ll back off on you. After a rousing start to the 20011/2012 snow pack in West Central Montana things have calmed down a bit. Snotels across the region are reading a little over two feet of snow on the ground at 7000 to 8000 feet. The exception to this is Hoodoo Basin with a 40 inch snowpack.

The word on the street is that motivated skiers and riders have been finding good conditions on colder aspects at elevation.  If you are getting out skiing and riding remember to watch for hazards just underneath the snow; i.e. deadfall and rocks. Sometimes in the early season we don’t think about avalanches.  Anytime we start recreating on steep slopes covered with snow we should be prepared for the snow to slide.  

I’d like to encourage folks to use our public observations page .  There have been a couple posted; although these are not official observations they do provide information for the early season enthusiast. 

Weather Outlook

Even though this last storm didn’t pan out quite the way we would have liked the Weather service is still predicting a La Nina pattern. This officially means “above average precipitation in the region and above average snowfall in the mountains”.

More immediately in the future a northerly flow will persist through the weekend bringing some modest amounts of snow.  An arctic cold front is predicted to come in by the middle of next week and bring some very cold temperatures. This weather has the potential to build some faceted snow in the pack due to temperature gradients; something to look for at the end of next week. This situation is possible where there is only a couple of feet of snow.


We’ve already had over 100 folks in avalanche awareness classes this season and we have more coming up.  I am presenting an avalanche awareness lecture Wednesday December 7 at 7pm in the North Underground Lecture Hall on the UM campus. Steve is doing a lecture for the Rocky Mountaineers at the Trailhead on December 14 at 7pm. Both lectures are open to the public.

There are a number of education opportunities available; check our website at .  The early Level 1 classes are filled but the March Level 1 at Lost Trail is wide open. It conveniently dovetails with their infamous steak fry that raises money for the Lost Trail Ski Patrol.

If you’re thinking about getting your Level 2, the American Avalanche Institute will be in town in early January. This will save you the travel expense of going somewhere like Jackson Hole (who would want to do that?). Field work will be in the mountains adjacent to Snow Bowl and classroom work will be at Ruby’s Inn. Check the aforementioned web address.

Ride and ski safe.


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.