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Officials issue warning about deadly avalanche conditions in effect Saturday


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The following is a news release from Fremont County Search & Rescue. Stock image.

FREMONT COUNTY — The Centennial Mountain Range (Mt. Jefferson, Reas Peak, Sawtelle Peak) is rated HIGH this morning.

Storm totals for the area are close to 20” totaling 2.1” of snow water equivalant. This rapid and heavy load has
pushed the snowpack past its breaking point making natural and human triggered avalanches likely. With more
snow and wind since then, conditions will remain hair trigger. Slides are failing on a layer of facets buried 3-4’ deep, which is producing large and dangerous events.

Very dangerous avalanche conditions exist, and the avalanche danger is rated HIGH on most slopes and EXTREME on some slopes. Natural and human triggered avalanches are probable. Avalanche terrain and avalanche runout zones should be avoided.

There is not an Avalanche Center that reports conditions for the Centennial Range; however, the Gallatin NationalForest Avalanche Center covers the nearby Lionhead area in Montana near West Yellowstone. It has similar conditions as The Centennials, but Mount Jefferson and Reas Peak will have slopes that may be rated higher than the Lionhead report.

Fremont County Search & Rescue Commander, Justin Liebert, asks everyone considering snowmobiling in the Island
Park area this weekend to use extreme caution when venturing off trail.

The conditions today will be worse than they were on January 10th when the avalanche buried the snowmobiler
West of Reas Peak resulting in a fatality.

Nobody should be riding the Back Country in the Centenneial Range this weekend unless conditions drastically
improve. When conditions improve, the only individuals venturing into these areas should make sure everyone in
their party has checked the avalanche advisory, are experienced riders, taken several hours of avalanche
awareness and avalanche rescue training, and have avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels with proficient
knowledge of how to use them.

An avalanche air bag would be an excellent addition to this list. Riders need to dig several snow pits, test each slope they are planning to ride, and avoid the ones that fail easily or even with moderate effort.

For those recreationists who don’t possess the training or equipment to help minimise the risk, Fremont County has over 500 miles of groomed trails. Become familiar with these trails and explore the backcountry when avalanche conditions are less deadly.

Two Top Mountain Northeast of Island Park will have avalanche conditions very similar to the Lionhead area. The
avalanche warning is in effect there, also. Two Top Mountain is rated high.

Please stay on the groomed trails. Be safe and live to ride another day.