Avalanche and Winter Safety

Avalanche Awareness

Many avalanche victims don’t know they are in avalanche danger and are unprepared to deal with an avalanche. This doesn't have to happen – the danger signs are usually obvious to those who know what to look for. It’s important for those living, working, and recreating in snowy mountains to learn about avalanches. What you learn can save lives. 

The Lolo National Forest has two different forecast zones for avalanches. Avalanche hazards are highly spatially variable, so avalanche forecasts for the Bitterroot or Seeley area (West Central Montana Avalanche Center) are not necessarily applicable to backcountry users in Shoshone or Mineral counties (Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center).

The West Central Montana Avalanche Center and Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center provide information, training and daily avalanche forecasts.  

Know before you go!  Start your avalanche learning here.

Safety Tips:

Be avalanche savvyKnow the conditions present for an avalanche. Take a certified avalanche course. Find courses at Avalanche.org.

Be aware: Know the avalanche danger/conditions where you will be recreating. Heed all warnings.

Be prepared: Have at least these safety items with you at all times and know how to use them. Everyone in your party should carry each of these items: 

  • Avalanche transceiver: Know the terrain and avoid dangerous conditions. If you are caught in an avalanche, use your avalanche transceiver to help others in your party find you.
  • Avalanche probes: These collapsible poles are longer than ski poles and are the perfect tool to begin searching for someone buried under the snow.
  • Shovel: Each person in your party should carry a shovel. Shovels can help you dig others out who may be caught in an avalanche, help determine snowpack conditions, assist in leveling out an area for a tent, or be used to melt snow for drinking water. Watch a video about how to use your rescue tools.
  • Backpack: Your pack should hold all your rescue gear, food, water, dry clothing, first-aid kit and other items. 
  • Partner: None of the above pieces of equipment will help you if you venture into the backcountry alone – always bring a buddy. 

Remember: You are responsible for the safety of yourself and for those around you.