Snowpack Summary published on April 9, 2018 @ 1:48 pm
Issued by Ben Bernall - Kootenai National Forest


bottom line:

Avalanche advisories for the Kootenai Region ended on April 6th, 2018. They will resume in sometime in December (snowpack-dependent of course!) 

In the meantime, the 2018 spring snowpack continues to build in the mountains. Expect the potential to find fresh storm slabs as well as the typical host of spring problems listed below.  Thanks for reading this season and feel free to provide input on this years avalanche forecast by emailing


Avalanche Character 1: Wet Slab
Wet Slab avalanches occur when there is liquid water in the snowpack, and can release during the first few days of a warming period. Travel early in the day and avoid avalanche terrain when you see pinwheels, roller balls, loose wet avalanches, or during rain-on-snow events.

There are some buried weak layers deep in the snowpack at elevations above treeline.  When spring does come it is entirely possible that some of these weak layers will come alive. It will most likely be a matter of a rain on snow event, or multiple days of warm temperatures without the nightly freeze to lock things back together. 

Avalanche Character 2: 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.

Watch the sun. When it comes out the surface snow will start to move, especially following storms that have left some loose snow on the surface.

Avalanche Character 3: Normal Caution
Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Use normal caution when travelling in the backcountry.

Warm sunny days will weaken cornices and the snowpack as a whole. There are some very large cornices in the high alpine terrain that are fighting gravity right now. Avoid being on or underneath these bohemoths on warm days. 


Avalanche conditions change for better or worse continually. Backcountry travelers should be prepared to assess current conditions for themselves, plan their routes of travel accordingly, and never travel alone. Backcountry travelers can reduce their exposure to avalanche hazards by utilizing timbered trails and ridge routes and by avoiding open and exposed terrain with slope angles of 30 degrees or more. Backcountry travelers should carry the necessary avalanche rescue equipment such as a shovel, avalanche probe or probe ski poles, a rescue beacon and a well-equipped first aid kit.  For a recorded version of the Avalanche Advisory call (208)765-7323.