Jan 28, 2014 @ 6:32 am

January 28, 2014 Avalanche Advisory

This morning the avalanche danger in the West Central Montana backcountry is LOW.  The avalanche danger is expected to escalate this evening through Thursday due to the weather forecast. A winter storm warning has been issued for the area.

Even during LOW danger there is always some avalanche problem to consider. Today I would consider the possibility of an avalanche in steep (>35 degrees) pockets at high elevations (>7500’), with a shallow snowpack, particularly near rock outcroppings. I would also consider the danger of a cornice fall; again at high elevations.

Good Morning, this is Dudley Improta with the West Central Montana avalanche advisory for January 28, 2014. This danger rating does not apply to operating ski areas and expires at midnight tonight. (Jan. 28).

Weather and Snowpack Analysis

This morning the Point 6 weather station is recording westerly mountain winds in the high twenties. Mountain temperatures are generally in the low teens with single digits at Lolo Pass. The Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for our area. Moderate to heavy snow will be deposited on a generally weak snow surface. These pit profiles and pictures show the current weak surfaces  (snow profile Bitterroots/ Brushy Fork) (snow profile Rattlesnake) (photo Lolo Pass) (photo Rattlesnakes) .

High pressure, for almost 10 days, has provided beautiful weather and great travel conditions. It has also allowed for surface hoar growth and near surface faceting which has created a weak snow surface. The storm predicted will deposit its snow on this weak surface.

Weather Forecast and Avalanche Outlook

A significant winter storm is expected to hit the area this evening and last through Thursday. Snowfall rates could reach 1 to 2 inches per hour. The storm may produce 16 to 20 inches of snow in the mountains by Thursday.  Of course, the storm will be accompanied by winds; in the 20 mph range.

I know we’re all powder starved; but the avalanche danger will increase.  If this storm lives up to its press releases; it would be prudent to let things settle out before easing into any steep terrain. Observers will be in the mountains on Thursday, gathering information for the Friday advisory.

Avalanche Classes

The University of Montana and missoulaavalnche are offering a free avalanche workshop beginning this evening. The class begins at 6pm in the North Urey Underground Lecture Hall.

The University and missoulaavalanche are also offering two Level 1 classes in the Bitterroot.One class is scheduled to begin February 6 the second class begins February 27.

If you have time, we’d appreciate hearing from you. You can send us a report on avalanche or snow conditions by using our public observations form or sending us a quick note at [email protected] .

Ski and ride safe! Stay aware of changing conditions.

I will issue the next advisory January 31.


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.