The Missoula Avalanche Center is busy, watching the snow and wind create some hazardous conditions in our area. In their Tuesday morning advisory, the center listed warning levels as "High" on leeward slopes and "Considerable" on all slopes. Wind-drifted snow seems to be the main culprit. As an example, a 79 mile per hour gust was noted on Mount Sentinel. Elsewhere, winds up to 35 mph were common. Avoid traveling on wind loaded slopes is the advice of the day.

You add the wind-loaded areas on top of some weak layers and the possibility of a large avalanche increases. The center had reports of avalanches in the southern Bitterroot Mountains that "broke initially on the buried surface hoar in the upper third of the snowpack and stepped down to weak facets near the ground with the crowns being 3 to 4 feet deep. The slides ran full path into runout zones on the valley floor."

You don't want to be caught in something like that. So, if you're in the snow on your skis or snowmobiles, avoid traveling under runout zones and steeper terrain. Always good advice is carry a beacon, shovel and probe. Listen to the snow and use caution.

The center advised heading out to some low angle powder and don't forget to tell someone where you're going and when you're expected to be back. It could save your life. Four people died in avalanches in the Western U.S. recently. The Missoula Avalanche Center has forecasts for the area from Lost Trail Pass in the south to North of Seeley Lake in Western Montana.

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