Heavy snowfall creates avalanche danger in backcountry
HELENA (AP) - Heavy snow over most of the state has created dangerous avalanche conditions, forest officials are warning those who play in the backcountry.
Since Christmas, parts of the Gallatin Mountains received more than 7 feet of snow. And throughout western and central Montana, snow nearly as deep covered the backcountry.
''Any time you get 5 feet of snow, like we've got in the Copper Creek bowls right now, you have a chance for an avalanche,'' Jerry Meyer, with the Helena National Forest, said of areas near Lincoln. ''Take personal responsibility out in the snow and terrain.''
Officials said avalanche conditions varied across the state, depending on snow depth and the incline of slopes.
Scott Schmidt, with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Advisory Center in Bozeman, said avalanche danger was high this week.
The avalanche danger in other areas, including West Yellowstone and Bear Basin, was listed as considerable on slopes greater than 35 degrees.
In west-central Montana, the snow wasn't quite as deep.
''Most of this storm moisture started falling Christmas Eve, with trace amounts continuing to fall Monday,'' said Steve Karkanen of the West Central Montana Avalanche Center.
The avalanche danger in the Rattlesnake Mountains north of Missoula and in areas of the Bitterroot Range near Lolo Pass was listed as moderate, Karkanen said. The risk increased near St. Regis where the danger was listed at considerable.
In Glacier Park, the Flathead and Kootenai national forests, the danger was listed as low below 6,000 feet and moderate at higher elevations.