Jan 17, 2014 @ 6:21 am

January 17, 2014 Avalanche Advisory

The avalanche danger in the west central Montana backcountry is MODERATE. It may be possible to trigger an avalanche on wind-loaded slopes steeper than 35 degrees above 7500 feet in elevation. On other terrain in the advisory area the avalanche danger is LOW. “Low” danger does not mean “no” danger; there is always some avalanche risk in riding and skiing slopes steeper than 35 degrees.

Good Morning, this is Dudley Improta with the West Central Montana avalanche advisory for January 17, 2014. This danger rating does not apply to operating ski areas and expires at midnight tonight. (Jan. 17).

Weather and Snowpack Analysis

This morning  mountain temperatures are variable; from the low twenties (F) near Lolo Pass, and Point 6 near Missoula; to thirty degrees (F) on Saddle Mountain near Lost Trail Pass. Winds above 6000 feet are blowing 15 to 25 mph out of  the west and southwest.  The last couple of days have been a great time to be in the winter backcountry, thanks to the high pressure system that settled over the area after last weekend’s storm.

Observers were out in the northern Bitterroots near the Brushy Fork and near Lost Trail Pass. I was in the Rattlesnakes Wednesday and in Crystal Theatre near Lolo Pass yesterday. The snow we received from the big storm has settled and inversions have created warm temperatures that have helped solidify the snowpack. There is some lingering doubt about the strength of the interface of the storm snow and the possiblity of isolated wind slabs at higher elevations.

(Snow Profile Crystal Theatre)  (Snow Profile Northern Bitterroots)  (Snow Profile Lost Trail Pass)

Pit observations Crystal Theatre 1_16_14 – Photo

If I wanted to trigger an avalanche; I would look for very steep slopes or couloirs at high elevations that haven’t been scoured from high winds, or jump on the biggest cornice I could find. Otherwise, we have generally stable conditions for  now.

Weather Forecast and Avalanche Outlook

The high pressure ridge is expected to dominate the weather with a weak disturbance on Sunday. High elevation winds are predicted to diminish. The inversion will build with warm daytime temperatures in the mountains. I would expect the snowpack to stabilize further in the next few days.

The Weather Service predicts a decrease in the high cloud cover; this should provide more opportunity for surface hoar growth on shaded, cold aspects. That could be our next weak layer.

Twin Peaks Avalanche near Philipsburg 12_24_13

Steve has posted a slide show of the Twin Peaks avalanche near Philipsburg on Dec. 24, 2013.  This slide was out of our advisory area, but provides valuable education.

Kettlehouse Pint Nite – Jan. 22

Kettlehouse Pint Nite, benefitting Missoulaavalanche and the Avalanche Center is coming up on January 22; I hear there are tickets to Alta, as well as some of the local areas, in the raffle.

If you have time, we’d appreciate hearing from you. You can use our public observations form or send us a quick note at [email protected] if you have an observation you would  like to report.

Ski and ride safe! Have a great weekend.

Steve will issue the next advisory on January 21, 2014.


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.