By JENNIFER WEBSTER/Montana State News

Skiing and snowmobiling extremists face the threat of high avalanche dangers this season with the fluctuating temperatures and snowstorms in southwest Montana, according to local snow experts.

Twenty-four-year-old Bozeman native Chad Green is all too familiar with avalanches and the danger they possess.  Green, who has lost his cousin, uncle, and most recently his father in April 2010 due to avalanche tragedies says, “Snow stability this year is very weak because of the cold snap, and then the heat soon to follow put a heavy layer of snow on top of a very weak layer of faucets.”

Eric Knoff, an avalanche specialist at the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center mentions that the snow stability changes every year. “Last year there were no deaths from avalanches, which hasn’t occurred in 12 years, because the snowpack was stable.”

Green emphasized the importance of testing snow stability and carrying safety equipment. Snow pits are used to examine the snowpack and determine whether it is likely to slide or not.

“Be sure to always dig snow pits on different facing slopes, do not rely on digging just one pit on a slope. North and northeast facing slopes are the most common for avalanches,” Green says.

Transceivers, radios specialized in finding people or equipment buried under snow, are an important piece of equipment to have when venturing into the backcountry, according to the avalanche center’s website.

“If you’re thinking of going into the backcountry make sure you and your friends know how to use transceivers and you should probably have an avalanche backpack,” Green states.

Knoff reminds people that even though conditions are improving, it is still possible to trigger avalanches for the remainder of the season.

For daily conditions and avalanche advisories go to http://www.mtavalanche.com.

– Edited by Makenzie Johnson

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