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Eric Knoff

Winter’s first major snowstorm impacted the region in mid-September, coating the mountains around Bozeman with multiple feet of snow. Brackett Creek Snotel site in the Bridger Range received 6.1” of SWE from the 16th to 24th of September. Long time locals called it the best September skiing on record. The mountains around Big Sky, West Yellowstone and Cooke City also picked up significant early season snow. The snowpack at primary SNOTEL sites in our advisory contained the highest amount of snow water equivalent on record for each day from September 20th-26th.

Doug Chabot

On September 16th winter arrived with a foot of snow in the mountains. On the 17th a skier triggered the first avalanche of the season. On the 19th, after continued snowfall, Alex issued the first avalanche information bulletin, the earliest in 28 years of operation. This winter was the biggest snow year since 1996/97 in southwest Montana with snowpack depth averaging 120-160% of normal.

The Avalanche Review,
Doug Chabot

By Ron Simenhois, Doug Chabot, Karl Birkeland and Ethan Greene

Explore Big Sky,
Eric Knoff

Impulse decision making may lead backcountry travelers into harm’s way. When riding in the backcountry, one bad decision can offset multiple good ones. Looking at avalanche accidents through this lens, a question arises: Were the decisions that contributed to an avalanche accident made with thought and measurable information, or were they made impulsively?

Explore Big Sky,
Eric Knoff
When skiing or riding in the backcountry, recognizing signs of instability
plays an important role in assessing snow safety. Cracking and collapsing of the
snowpack, along with recent avalanche activity, are Mother Nature’s clues that
the snowpack is unstable.
Carve,
Doug Chabot

Being prepared to play in the backcountry includes prepping your gear, your mind, and your partner. All are important and each requires separate actions. Many accidents result from a cascading failure stemming from a lack of preparation.

Explore Big Sky,
Eric Knoff

Backcountry skiing and snowmobiling has exploded in popularity over the past 10 years. Every winter more skiers and riders hit the backcountry in pursuit of steep faces and untracked powder. This type of riding has increased the inherent risk of being caught in an avalanche and on average, 30 people die in avalanches every year in the United States.

Explore Big Sky,
Eric Knoff
Explore Big Sky,
Eric Knoff

Backcountry skiing and snowmobiling has exploded in popularity over the past 10 years. Every winter more skiers and riders hit the backcountry in pursuit of steep faces and untracked powder. This type of riding has increased the inherent risk of being caught in an avalanche and on average, 30 people die in avalanches every year in the United States.

Carve,
Doug Chabot

Our job at the avalanche center is to warn and inform the public about the snowpack and avalanche danger. Unfortunately, the best information cannot prevent all avalanche accidents and deaths will remain a part of winter recreation. Montana has a million people, one of the least populated states, but in the last 15 years we are ranked second in the nation in avalanche fatalities and first in snowmobiler fatalities. These are not standings I am proud of: less people, more fatalities. Not a tag-line for the Montana Office of Tourism.