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Bridger slides

Wet slides are now a concern in the mountains as rain falls and temperatures warm. This is a view of the North Bowl at Bridger Bowl Ski Area, which is closed for the season.

For a third consecutive winter season there were no avalanche fatalities in the Cooke City area, maybe in large part due to the extra efforts of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center and Montana State Parks to educate snowmobilers, skiers and snowboarders in the region about avalanche danger.

The information is contained in a wrapup of the center’s winter season, written by director Doug Chabot. Other highlights from the report include:

This winter there were 25 avalanche fatalities in the United States including two in southwest Montana: a skier in the Tobacco Root Mountains and a skier in the Bridger Range.

In southwest Montana there were 63 avalanche incidents (aka close calls) reported to the center that were split between skiers/snowboarders (27), motorized users (31) and ice climbers (5). These incidents resulted in seven people being caught, four partially buried, one fully buried and two killed.

In addition to the weekly Cooke City training sessions, the center and its friends group taught 129 classes reaching more than 3,200 people. Many of these were snowmobilers (761) and children under 18 years old (689), two target audiences.

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To make forecasts and monitor the snowpack the center crew dug 100 snowpits. The crew’s estimated total, in pounds, of snow shoveled while digging pits was 200,000 pounds, with half of it done by the center’s intern Andrew Schauer.

The crew worked 34 days as “excepted” employees during the government shutdown. The best part of the government shutdown was the availability of parking.

Best “ghost ride” for having his sled hole-in-one into a tree well: Eric Knoff. Number of blown snowmobile belts this year: two.

The most active weekend for avalanches: Jan. 26 and 27 with 23 avalanches. The coldest recorded temperature on the vehicle thermometer: -34 degrees. Number of times we had to beat the frozen trailer lock with a wrench to open it: at least six. Number of times we also poured hot coffee on it: five. Number of times we did not go in the field because it was too cold: zero. Number of times we wish we didn’t: at least six.

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