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Avalanche danger likely to increase with warmer temps and more snow, experts say

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Posted at 6:49 PM, Mar 20, 2024

BOZEMAN — After Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue (GCSSAR) helped a skier caught in an avalanche near Hyalite Reservoir on Tuesday, avalanche experts say the fluctuating snowpack could lead to more dangers in the backcountry.

“So, changes can happen incredibly rapidly as we get warmer,” says Doug Chabot, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center Director.

Tuesday's rescue was the first avalanche rescue of the year for GCSSAR. They had one in 2023 and three in 2022, one of which involved a fatality.

Tuesday’s rescue happened after a skier triggered an avalanche and was carried more than 250 feet. The skier suffered a leg injury; according to GCSSAR, a second skier was not injured or carried in the avalanche but was able to use his emergency beacon to call emergency crews.

“We're advising people to really pay attention,” says Chabot.

With warm temperatures the last couple of days and snow in the forecast, experts are expecting higher avalanche dangers.

“Avalanche danger will probably rise the more snow we get. A lot will hinge on how much snow we get,” says Chabot.

Chabot says this season’s low snowpack has created a base for high avalanche danger.

“That snow became incredibly weak, like historically weak for us. And so when we started to use snowfall and loading that, we've now put a lot of snow on top of this and that's what's breaking," he says.

Chabot reminds folks who are going in the backcountry to always be alert and check current conditions.