MISSOULA, Mont. - Record snowpack numbers in parts of western Montana and moisture expected this weekend have avalanche experts warning of dangerous conditions in the backcountry.
New SNOTEL data released Thursday shows that snow water equivalent is at 140 percent of the normal amount in Flathead County, 147 percent in the Missoula valley, 148 percent in the upper Yellowstone region, and 173 percent of normal snow-water equivalent in the Bitterroot valley.
"It's probably a 1 in 10-year snowfall year. It's been a great year for snow," said West Central Avalanche Center Director Steve Karkanen.
Karkanen says that has also made it a dangerous year for avalanches, with 26 deaths nationwide, including five in Montana.
Karkanen says the danger isn't over.
"There's still plenty of snow on the backcountry right now," said Karkanen. "The thing to watch for this time of year is, anytime we get new snowfall like we're expecting this weekend, look to see how well the snow bonds to the surface, and then, of course, the wind typically blows harder at the high elevations, so wind-loaded slopes could also be a bit touchy for a few days."