Winds Make Avalanche Danger Considerable for Montana Skiers
After winds clocked at nearly 70 miles per hour battered western Montana in the last 24 to 36 hours, the West Central Montana Avalanche Center has designated back country avalanche danger as ‘considerable’.
KGVO News reached out to Director Jeff Carty, who explained the designation ‘considerable’ to describe current avalanche danger.
“Within the description, ‘considerable’ human triggered avalanches are likely and natural avalanches are possible,” said Carty. “We've got touchy conditions right now because we just received a bunch of snow and we’ve had really high winds for going on 24 hours. The high wind has been transporting any of that new snow to lee aspects.”
Carty further explained why avalanche danger is greater than normal.
“The main point is that we've received a big load of snow. Potentially two feet of new snow in places like the South Central Bitterroot while other places received six inches overnight. They may receive another eight today, so we'll have more than a foot of snow before it gets drifted by the wind, sitting on that slick crust.”
Technically, Carty explained the terms avalanche watchers use to describe the type of terrain that back country skiers and recreationists experience.
“There are nine different avalanche types and ‘wind slab’ is one of those types,” he said. “Today we're expecting to see ‘storm slab’. Slab avalanches are created by consolidating storm snow on top of a weak layer and we're expecting to see ‘wind slab’ which is consolidated slabs of snow that have been wind drifted and compacted.”
Carty explained the attraction of back country skiing.
“Backcountry skiing offers the advantage of solitude and great powder,” he said. To go into places that other people don't go, with fantastic terrain and views and all the rest of it; all the things people go outside for. People value powder snow, fresh snow, and this is the first time we've had fresh snow or soft snow in a couple of weeks, and so the desire for soft turns can get people out there.”
Carty, an experienced backcountry skier, explained the safety precautions that all backcountry recreationists should take, and the first is never travel alone.
“The recommendation is that people always go in groups or with a partner have all the correct avalanche safety gear which includes a beacon, shovel and transceiver and that they know how to use them,” he said. “If you get caught in an avalanche, and you're by yourself, there's nobody there to dig you out. We need partners to go into the mountains with to recreate safely.”
Click this link to see the current avalanche danger to backcountry skiers and recreationists.