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Avalanche center warns there's still a risk of avalanches even with lack of snow

GNFAC says they are seeing an average number of avalanches
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Posted at 5:49 PM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-26 10:30:04-05

BOZEMAN — There may not be any snow in town, but that’s not the case for the mountains which in turn, causes a risk of avalanches.

"If there's enough snow to ski or ride, there's enough snow to slide," says Alex Marienthal with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

Marienthal says there is enough snow high enough in the mountains for avalanches to occur.

"The snow that is there got really weak prior to the last storm," he says. "And then that last storm created a slab on top of that weak snow and made things unstable."

He says this year, the amount of avalanches fall within the yearly average with about 30 to 40 so far this season. One avalanche that stands out is a mountain goat triggering a slide in Big Sky.

"That one in particular is interesting because it shows the snowpack is quite unstable. If a herd of goats or one goat's kind of punch through and trigger something that big," says Marienthal.

How do you know you're at risk if getting caught in an avalanche? Marienthal says it has a lot to do with snow texture.

"You see recent avalanches or if the snowpack collapses and once underneath you when you're walking around, that's a sign that things are unstable," says Marienthal. "It's sugary and non-cohesive. So you can't really make a snowball out of it. And it can't hold the weight of future storms very well."

If you’re headed out to the backcountry, you should always check the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center’s forecast.

"We'll tell you what the danger is and give a description of where to especially be cautious of," says Marienthal.