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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.

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.

The Avalanche Review,
Doug Chabot

Home of the Karakorum, Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains, Central Asia has a serious avalanche hazard.  Mountain communities throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan experienced a widespread avalanche cycle in March 2012 and again in February 2015 that destroyed villages, killed livestock and took the lives of hundreds of residents.

Carve,
Doug Chabot

Avalanches involving people don’t happen randomly. 90% of avalanche incidents are triggered by the victim or someone in their party. In order to play safely in avalanche terrain we need to understand what’s happening with the snow.

Carve,
Doug Chabot

Every year we teach almost 100 avalanche classes to nearly 5,000 people across a wide swath of the recreating public: grade school and graduate students, skiers, snowmobilers, ice climbers, search and rescue groups, and ski patrols. Though the groups are diverse, the questions are similar. Here’s some answers the most common ones.

The Avalanche Review,
Doug Chabot

In 2002 Karl Birkeland was researching a new stability test, the Stuffblock, and needed willing participants to try it and record their data. Since Karl sits in the cubicle next to me, I was an easy recruit. All that season I filled a stuff sack with ten pounds of snow and dropped it from ever increasing heights, dutifully recording the results in my yellow Rite-in-the-Rain book along with other pit information. It was a relatively easy task.

MSA,
Eric Knoff

Spring riding can be some of the best of the season. Good snow coverage, warmer weather and more predictable snow stability (at times) can lead to unmatched riding conditions. Riding ability also improves after a full season which allows riders to push the envelope in avalanche terrain. While spring riding can be the best, it can also hold avalanche hazards not encountered during the colder parts of winter.

MSA,
Eric Knoff

There were 15 avalanche fatalities in the western United States in January, 2016, the deadliest January in over 20 years. Five of the fatalities were snowmobilers, one was a snowbiker, six were skiers, two were snowboarders and one was a climber. Avalanches are an equal opportunity killer and do not discriminate. To avoid becoming a statistic follow three simple rules of backcountry travel and learn to manage terrain and snowpack carefully.