IPNF Avalanche Information

Photo of avalanche specialist checking layers in the snowpackNational Forests in North Idaho encompass approximately 2.7 million acres which include the Cabinet, Selkirk, St. Joe, Purcell, Coeur d'Alene, and Bitterroot mountain ranges. These mountains are graced with some of the deepest snowfall in the intermountain west. In the winter this translates into an incredible opportunity to explore our snow-laden backcountry. Skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are popular forms of winter recreation and there are numerous places to enjoy these activities.

Maps of designated groomed snowmobile trail routes, containing emergency rescue information, are linked from the Winter Conditions section of the IPNF Current Conditions webpage.


The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (IPAC) issues regional avalanche advisories on Tuesday and Friday mornings during the winter months for the above listed mountain ranges. The Kootenai Area in Montana also falls under the IPAC forecast area. The advisory is compiled to inform backcountry recreationists of the current avalanche conditions. Information for the advisory is obtained from field data from Forest Service avalanche forecasters, National Weather Service data, region-wide SNOTEL sites, local ski areas (Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Mt. Spokane, and Lookout Pass), and public observations.

All avalanche advisories are listed on the IPAC website, or you can hear the current advisory by calling the forecast center in Sandpoint at (208) 765-7323.


IPAC partners with various local organizations, schools, and shops to conduct free avalanche awareness sessions.  Classes cover topics ranging from avalanche dynamics, weather factors, snowpack, rescue techniques, avalanche beacon practice, and route selection. These classes are meant to serve as an introduction or refresher to avalanche education. More information can be found on the IPAC event page

IPAC teaches Avalanche Fundamentals, Level 1 (American Avalanche Association) courses. Each session includes 24 hours of classroom and field-based instruction, including how to recognize avalanches, how to avoid them, the factors that result in each type, and how to become your own avalanche forecaster. It also covers avalanche dynamics and how to use the avalanche triangle (Snow, Weather, Terrain) to assess the stability of the snowpack. For more details, schedule of classes, and costs, see the IPAC Education page.

IPAC also organizes specialized training sessions; for more information contact Jeff Thompson at: 208-263-6635, Kevin Davis at: 208-265-6686, or Eric Morgan at 208-265-6674.

When planning your winter trip into our backcountry, don't forget these safety items:
     shovel, beacon, probe, and KNOWLEDGE.


Avalanche.org (Kootenai National Forest and all advisories for the western U.S.)

Missoula Avalanche Center (Bitterroot, Lolo, and Nez Perce National Forests, Montana and Idaho)

Flathead Avalanche Center (Flathead area, Montana, and Glacier National Park)

Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (Bozeman, Cooke City, Billings and surrounding mountain ranges)

List of all Avalanche Centers

Key Contacts

IPNF Public Affairs Officer
Shoshana Cooper
(208) 765-7211

Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (IPAC)


Jeff Thompson
(208) 263-6635

Kevin Davis
(208) 265-6686

Eric Morgan
(208) 265-6674

Coeur d'Alene and Silver Valley:
Melissa Hendrickson
(208) 769-3067

Kootenai Area -
Libby, MT:
Ben Bernall
(406) 295-7555