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After recent dangerous avalanches in Montana, experts issue backcountry warning

Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 13:10:01-05

BILLINGS- Avalanche experts are issuing caution after two snow slides near Cooke City triggered by snowmobilers over the weekend.

It comes also on the heels of a Bozeman elementary school principal getting buried in an avalanche Sunday in Beehive Basin near Big Sky.

Dave Zinn with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center said Monday the slides happened near Daisy Pass and Mount Abundance near Cooke City.

He says, they were small slides, but big enough to tumble a rider off their machine.

“It’s an important reminder, that bigger avalanches are still possible,” said Zinn.

No one was injured.

But the slides have Zinn and other avalanche experts asking outdoor enthusiasts to remain vigilant and cautious as weather conditions are set to change in Montana.

Zinn says with warmer temperatures and more snowfall in the forecast, he’s got two major concerns.

“One is wind loaded slopes,” he said. “Recent winds have drifted the snowfall and that adds stress to the snowpack.”

The other concern is thin snow.

“That provides a weaker snowpack less able to hold weight,” said Zinn.

Zinn says anyone outside should be thinking about where they are located and its relation to avalanche terrain.

“With new snow coming this week it will increase avalanche danger,” he said. “Know where you are relative to that avalanche terrain. Always have your rescue gear, your avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe.”

And he says know how to use them.

“Keep your eyes and ears open, look for signs of instability, those are your clues to stay off steep slopes. Remember the number one sign of instability is recent avalanches,” said Zinn.

And finally, never expose more than one person at a time to steep terrain, according to Zinn.

“That way if something does go wrong there is someone around for immediate partner rescue and first aid.”