Southwest Montana mountain ranges under large avalanche danger

Strong winds in the Bridger Mountain Range on Jan. 1 formed fresh, soft drifts that broke and cracked easily, and slid on steep slopes both naturally and from skier activity. 

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Strong winds and unstable snowpack has created moderate to low avalanche danger with a possibility of large avalanches across the Bridger, Gallatin and Madison mountain ranges.

The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) said frigid temperatures in the single digits along with heavy snowfall in the past two weeks and strong wind gusts have created unstable snow slabs in the backcountry.

According to the GNFAC avalanche forecast for Jan. 3, large avalanches on Saddle Peak in the Bridger Mountain Range over the last few days are a sign that avalanches can be triggered by human activity in the backcountry.

The good news, the last three days without new snow means it is becoming more difficult to trigger large avalanches breaking below the recent snow, but it is still possible.

Yesterday riders near Cooke City reported an avalanche on Mt. Abundance which is a few days old, but it shows what is possible and an example of type of terrain to stay away from today.

Over in the southern Madison, south Gallatin, Lionhead and Cooke City ranges riders or skiers could trigger avalanches that break within or below snow that fell over the past couple weeks, around four to five feet of snow over the past 10 days.

GNFAC warns people recreating in the backcountry to be cautious of wind-loaded slopes, especially those loaded during the recent storm, or where you see snow being drifted into fresh slabs today.

Human triggered avalanches are possible and the avalanche danger is at the moderate level.

You can find helpful resources from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center on backcountry avalanche activity, weather forecasts and safety education tips here.

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