Heavy snowfall and high winds the past 48 hours are giving a jump start to what is predicted to be another big winter.
Hello! This is Steve Karkanen with an early season snowpack conditions report issued November 13, 2011.
By 10am this morning SNOTEL sites in the Bitterroot are reporting 11-19” of snow on the ground. Even the lower elevation sites have decent snow. Lolo and Lookout passes, each at around 5200’, have 17-18” of snow. North of Missoula, the Stuart Peak SNOTEL reports 14” and North Fork Jocko 19”. Snowfall will continue throughout the week.
Now that the higher terrain has accumulated enough snow to recreate on it’s time to start thinking about avalanches.
LeewardWind erodes snow from the windward (upwind) side of an obstacle and deposits snow on the leeward (downwind) side. Deposited snow looks smooth and rounded. You should always beware of recent deposits of wind drifted snow on steep slopes. slopes just below the ridgeline will be the most likely place where a slabA relatively cohesive snowpack layer. A layer of snow stronger than underlying layers.A relatively cohesive snowpack layer. A layer of snow stronger than underlying layers. can form. Heavily sheltered couloirsA steep gully in alpine terrain. In winter, a couloir is usually filled with snow bound by rocks on either side. or gullies where last winters snow persisted through the summer need particular attention as early season snow may not bond easily to the hard, smooth surface of the old snow.
Bottom line: Slopes that hold the most snow and the best skiing are usually avalanche paths.
Hunters have been caught and killed in avalanches in Montana. Now that there’s good tracking snow a hunter can easily find themselves in avalanche terrain. Hunters don’t often think about avalanches or have any rescue equipment and often travel solo. The best course of action for hunters is to avoid steep open terrain.
We have a number of class offerings coming up. The Level 1 classes are popular and tend to fill up quickly so get signed up soon. More information can be found on our education and events page.
We begin issuing regular advisories in early December depending on conditions. If you get out and see interesting snow, weather or avalanches, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or send an observation on the form provided on the website.