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Forecaster urges caution amidst Western Montana avalanche warnings

Avalanche warning
Posted at 8:11 AM, Dec 27, 2022

KALISPELL - A warm, wet, and windy storm is sweeping across western Montana after last week’s bitter cold.

A backcountry avalanche warning was continued on Tuesday morning for much of west-central and Northwest Montana. The warning remains in effect until 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

“I was just looking at some weather stations and there’s almost an 80-degree temperature swing from last week to this week and so that’s a huge change to the snowpack and a huge change it really doesn’t like,” said Flathead Avalanche Center Forecaster Cameron Johnson.

Johnson says heavy rain falling on dry snowpack leads to an immediate increase in avalanche danger.

“Natural avalanches are more likely, and they can entrain a lot of snow and run pretty far distances when the snow becomes saturated and wet, and they can be pretty destructive avalanches,” added Johnson.

He says all forms of backcountry recreation are not recommended for the next few days.

“Just as worried about the snowmobilers as skiers, you know they say avalanches are a non-biased killer,” says Johnson.

Johnson says those who decide to venture into the backcountry this week need to take every precaution imaginable and have a full understanding of the risk they are deciding to take.

“So, checking the forecasts, having all the right gear, so having a shovel, beacon, probe and knowing how to use that equipment is more important than even carrying it really, really emphasis staying out of avalanche terrain for the next couple of days.”

A daily avalanche forecast can be found for Northwest Montana here. Avalanche conditions for west-central Montana can be found here.