Feb 6, 2012 @ 6:33 am

February 6, 2012 Avalanche Advisory

Avalanche danger is now LOW in the west central Montana mountains.

At the highest ridges the more north facing slopes and any pockets that are shallow need to be considered at the next level or MODERATE avalanche danger.

Good morning backcountry riders and sliders.  This is Steve Karkanen with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center avalanche advisory for Monday February 6, 2012.

Weather and Snowpack Analysis

High pressure dominated the area the past 4 days with moderate temperatures, little wind and bright sunny skies.  Temperatures reached into the 30’s at most mountain locations during the afternoons then dropped back into single digits overnight.

Many of the sun exposed aspects now have a sun crust that makes for challenging skiing conditions.  Backcountry snowmachiners are reporting some of the best riding conditions of the year.

While the deeper weaknesses we were concerned about continue to gain strength,  the upper snowpack is growing a big crop of surface hoar crystals.  Once buried, these crystals become a pernicious and persistent problem for us down the road.  For now, they are not a problem and are fun to ride on.

10-15mm surface hoar crystals.

The depth hoar we have been describing can still be found in shaded pockets but it is much stronger and buried so deep that it would take a lot of weight to produce an avalanche in these areas.  The best way to deal with this beast is not to trust it.  Never tempt fate by dropping more than 1 skier or rider onto it.

Weather Forecast and Avalanche Outlook

The high pressure ridge has shifted west allowing a more northerly flow with a chance for light snow showers later today.  The wind at Point Six this morning is ENE at 40mph and the temperature is 19 degrees.

There’s not much moisture expected for the next few days so the best we can hope for is wind strong enough to destroy the surface hoar.  Expect avalanche danger to remain similar until the next storm or if mountain temperatures reach above freezing for an extended period.

Dudley will issue the next advisory on Friday, February 10.

Level 1 Avalanche for Snowmobilers

There are a handful of openings for this rider specific class.  The class is February 24-26 with two days on the snow.  Sign up by calling the U of M Outdoor Program at 406-243-5172.


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.