The mountains of the Kootenai N.F. recieved 12-16 inches of snow at elevations above 5,000 feet over the course of two days (March 13-14th). This new snow has bonded quite well with the existing snowpack. However, there was evidence of some small "point release" avalanches on southerly aspects. With sunshine predicted over the forecast area through the weekend there will be more potential for "loose wet" snow avalanches. This problem will likely be encountered on any slope taking on solar radiation. These slides are likely to be smaller in nature but should be given greater concern in areas such as gullies or above cliff bands where being caught will increase consequences.
BOTTOM LINE: Use caution while playing on slopes exposed to the sun. Be observant to changes in snow conditions especially in the afternoon hours.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record I will continue to remind backcountry travelers that we are working with a relatively stable snowpack at this time, but this is all subject to change with the weather over the course of the next week. With intense sun or high mountain rains this stable snowpack will be host to a range of problems consisting of both "loose wet" avalanches as well as the potential for deeper releases and cornice failures. Pay attention to predicted weather and changing snow conditions while you play!
Friday March 25th will be the last snowpack summary issued for the Kootenai N.F. for the 2015-16 winter.
Todays travels took us to the Mckay Mountain area of the Eastern Cabinet Range where we found 12-16 inches on new snow that was bonded quite well to the underlying melt/freeze crust. We observed some evidence of small "loose wet" avalanches from the preceeding days on south apects. We saw no evidence of any large slab avalanches in our travels and had great stability results in all of our tests. We descended on a North aspect where we had very minor sloughing just below the ridgeline.
There is still abundant evidence of glide cracks in both the East and West Cabinets. These glide cracks seem to be in a fairly stagnant state at this time as mountain temperatures have generally stayed below the freezing mark for the past week.
Backcountry Forecast from NWS Missoula issued:
210 PM MDT Thu Mar 17 2016
DISCUSSION: A cold front moving south and east across the area will
continue to bring increasing snow showers along the Continental
Divide and across western Montana to the ID/MT border. Winds will
switch to the north and east and colder temperatures are expected
over northwest Montana. The Seeley Swan range is expected to see
the greatest snow amounts of several inches possible today. A
ridge of high pressure will begin to build over the region on
Friday, with warmer and drier weather expected for the weekend.
--------------------------- 5000-7000 FT ----------------------------
Tonight FRI FRI Night SAT
Cloud Cover 40% 10% 20% 30%
Hi/Lo Temps 14 to 20 31 to 38 19 to 24 40 to 44
Winds(mph) NE 6G17 E 7G18 SE 7 SE 5
Precip Chc 0 0 0 0
Precip Type sno/shr none none none
Liquid Amt 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Snow Ratio(SLR) 18:1 0 0 0
Snow Amt(in) 0 0 0 0
Snow Level 2000 1500 3000 2500
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.