Heavy snow in western and west central Montana over the past several days have led to avalanche warnings being issued.

Unfortunately, a man from northwest Montana became an avalanche victim over the weekend.  Associated Press tells us that a 60-year-old Kalispell man died after being caught in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the Swan Range east of Kalispell. The Flathead County Sheriff reported that several snowmobilers were caught in the slide Saturday and the victim was buried. His friends dug him out and tried CPR without success.

Severe weather prevented search and rescue teams from recovering the man's body until yesterday.  Our condolences go out to the victim's family and friends.

The Flathead Avalanche Center had issued avalanche warnings for the Swan Range on Saturday. As of this morning (Monday, Feb. 8), avalanche warnings were still in effect for the southern Mission, southern Swan, Rattlesnake, and southern and central Bitterroot Mountains. The avalanche danger for the west central Montana backcountry is HIGH. The avalanche hazard is increasing with continued snowfall and wind. Human triggered avalanches are certain. Avalanches may run long distances. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Avoid runout zones. You can trigger an avalanche remotely from the side, below or above you. Natural avalanches are likely.

Also, new snow has tested the weak layers in the snowpack. The Flathead Avalanche Center was able to remotely trigger slides yesterday at Gash Point in the central Bitterroot on multiple aspects on buried weak layers, and had shooting cracks at Lolo Pass.

These are all signs to stay away from avalanche terrain.


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