Snowpack Summary published on March 20, 2017 @ 4:00 pm
Issued by Ben Bernall - Kootenai National Forest
Avalanche Character 1: Loose Wet
Loose Wet avalanches occur when water is running through the snowpack, and release at or below the trigger point. Avoid very steep slopes and terrain traps such as cliffs, gullies, or tree wells. Exit avalanche terrain when you see pinwheels, roller balls, a slushy surface, or during rain-on-snow events.

 It rained hard last saturday.  Then it froze.  The snow is now hard as a rock and unlikely to move unless we see another rain event or a day of strong solar radiation.  If this is the case then we may see some loose wet slides. With the current weather forecast slab avalanches are unlikely, if we see another significant warmup deeper slabs could release on buried rain crusts or at the ground level where the snow is sitting on a rock slab surface.  Snowmobiler or skier input is unlikely to trigger such an event.

BOTTOM LINE: With multiple freeze-thaw cycles under our belt the snow is about as solid as it can get.  The hazard out there will be created by warm temps or rain.   Pay attention to changing conditions such as rain on snow or rapid heating caused by solar radiation.

Snowpack Discussion

Check out the Panhandle forecast by clicking the link below!

recent observations

On Monday March 20th we travelled into the Libby Creek drainage.  We were able to observe the aftermath of multiple deep slab avalanches that released during Saturdays rain event.  There were some climax avalanches observed as well that had released down to the ground on rocky slabs.  We did observe multiple "Glide Cracks" as well in areas where there is known rock slab underneath.  These glide cracks are unpredictable and dangerous but will only cause a problem in warm conditions when the snowpack weakens and the bed surface is lubricated with meltwater.

Despite the remnants of carnage, the snowpack was now cold and hard.  Even the areas taking the sun stayed firm and icy throughout the day.  The real hazard out there right now is staying on your feet.

Avalanche debris at the base of Ojibway Mt.

weather summary

Backcountry Forecast from NWS Missoula issued:
300 PM MDT Mon Mar 20 2017

DISCUSSION: Light precipitation will gradually spread northward
across the region today, reaching the Canadian border by Tuesday
morning. Snow levels will range from 6000 feet across the south
to valley floors up north but accumulations will be light. Breezy
easterly winds are also expected later today into tonight. 
Beginning Tuesday and lasting through the week, frequent
disturbances will lead to a showery pattern with temperatures at
seasonable levels.

--------------------------- 5000-7000 FT ----------------------------
                                Tonight      Tue             Tue Night   Wed     
Cloud Cover            85%           95%           95%             95%     
Hi/Lo Temps           22 to 29     36 to 44     29 to 35        37 to 45
Winds(mph)            E 11           SE  8          S  6             SW  9   
Precip Chc              60               60              80                80      
Precip Type            snow           sno/shr      showers      showers 
Liquid Amt             0.05            0.07           0.34            0.20        
Snow Amt(in)         0-1              0-1            0-3             0-2     
Snow Level            3000            3500         6500          5500


This advisory applies only to backcountry areas outside established ski area boundaries. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This advisory expires midnight on the posted day unless otherwise noted. The information in this advisory is provided by the USDA Forest Service who is solely responsible for its content.