UMW News BureauWith ski season upon the Rocky Mountains and southwestern Montana, the Montana Western Birch Creek Center is teaming up with Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center to provide a free informational avalanche presentation on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in Block Hall Room 311 of the UMW campus. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Bridger Mountains. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center."][/caption] With ski season upon the Rocky Mountains, the Montana Western Birch Creek Center is teaming up with Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center to provide a free informational avalanche presentation on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in Block Hall Room 311 of the UMW campus. The avalanche danger is currently rated high in most of the mountains around southwest Montana. Extreme cold weather in early December severely weakened the snowpack creating large faceted snow crystals near the ground. The weak bottom layer creates unstable snow, which can easily result in avalanches triggered both naturally and by humans. “We’re in a situation where we have thinner snowpack and colder temperatures, which leads to really weak snowpacks,” Jay Pape of Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center said. “It’s about as bad as we’ve seen it around here in a long time.” As skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers hit the slopes after the most recent storm, the Bozeman-based organization is reporting several avalanches in mountains throughout the region. Beaverhead County does not currently have an organized station or staff to monitor avalanche conditions around Dillon. “People need to have more avalanche awareness in this area,” urged Birch Creek Center Program Director Joe Brandon. “It’s great snow if you can get into the backcountry and ski it safely, but you have to ski it safely.” The hour-and-a-half event will feature a multimedia presentation on basic avalanche awareness, terrain, snowpack and safety. Both Pape and Brandon said they hope this presentation is the beginning of continued avalanche presentations and classes at Montana Western, including a field days with on-site demonstrations of snow pit evaluations and mock rescues.
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