There’s Snow In Them Thar Hills

Avalanche advisories are the best way to get informed about your local snowpack … and the likelihood of an avalanche being triggered on that days backcountry outing. If you have a basic understanding of all of the factors that come together to make avalanches more or less likely (learned in a class or through an avalanche education book) then the updates about layers found in the snow, temperatures, winds, and snow depths are invaluable—especially if you’re paying attention from the first snowfall of the season.

But avalanche forecasts are just as useful if you only need the straight scoop on that days likelihood of an avalanche—most forecasts will put it into one word: “Low, “Moderate, “Considerable, “High, or “Extreme (yikes).

Here’s an excerpt from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center’s most recent forecast:

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005—”This is Doug Chabot from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center with your first early season Avalanche Information Bulletin. Today is Wednesday, October 5th, and this information will be updated as conditions warrant.

“The storm that rolled over us dropped the most snow in the Bridgers and northern Gallatin and Madison Ranges, where 16-24 inches of wet, dense snow fell above 7,000 feet. Further south, around West Yellowstone and Cooke City the amounts tapered off to 8-12 inches. This would be a great storm in January, much less October!

“At higher elevations they’ll be enough snow to make a few careful turns, especially in gullies that catch more than their fair share of snow courtesy of the wind. And herein lies the problem; if skiing is possible, so are avalanches. Every year avalanches get triggered after the first snowstorm. While there may not be enough snow to completely bury you in a slide, there are two things to keep in mind. The first is that any slide could result in trauma since rocks aren’t fully buried. The second is that without a partner to dig you out even a small slide can be deadly if your head is buried.

You just learned something didn’t you? To read the complete bulletin go to: To receive the daily avalanche bulletin from your local avalanche forecasting center. Go to to find the links.