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Canada reels from rash of avalanche fatalities

WINTER SPORTS — Five avalanche deaths in a week — the first in Banff National Park since 2008 — have prompted a plea from safety officials for backcountry users to be cautious in tricky snow conditions.

It has also sparked a discussion about how to better raise awareness about dangerous conditions.

See the story:

Parks Canada to review warning process after avalanches kill 7

Colorado avalanche deaths stun Colorado backcountry snow goers

Saturday's avalanche was deadliest in Colorado in more than 50 years

On Saturday, five men participating in the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash on Colorado's Loveland Pass were killed by an avalanche, the deadliest in the state since 1962. 

The Backcountry Bash was a fundraiser for the area avalanche center. —Denver Post

Last season’s Stevens Pass avalanche tragedy detailed

WINTER SPORTS — Our newspaper covered the Feb. 19, 2012, avalanche tragedy that killed three expert skiers at Stevens Pass, and I wrote a column that week explaining why avalanche tragedies must be explored.

And my blog followed up with a video interview with a survior and a blog post and series of links to help focus on the group effect that allows even experts to become blind to potential disaster.

But 10 months later, The New York Times has put together a long, in-depth, informative and fascinating multi-media report on the incident. 

It's called, Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek — A group of world-class skiers and snowboarders set out to ski Tunnel Creek. Then the mountain moved.

Washington snowmobiler killed in Montana avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — I'm working with other media to help get word out the avalanche conditions are dangerous throughout much of the region.  The latest of at least five avalanche deaths reported in the region in the past three days occurred Monday in northwestern Montana.

Two Washington snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche that killed a man from southeastern Washington.

The Flathead County sheriff's office says the slide occurred at 4 p.m. Monday about 12 miles east of Kalispell in the Lost Johnny drainage of the South Fork of the Flathead River.

Undersheriff Jordan White says 33-year-old Charles John Dundon III of Connell, Wash., triggered the slide as he rode his snowmobile across an open slope. Dundon and another man were caught in the slide, but the second man wasn't buried.

Dundon is the fifth person to die in an avalanche in Montana this winter.

AVALANCHE DANGER RATED HIGH

Today, the West Central Montana Avalanche Center upgraded the avalanche danger to “high” in the Rattlesnake, southern Swan and southern Mission mountains above 5,000 feet. The center said the ski patrol at Snowbowl is reporting that ski cuts are producing dangerous slab avalanches.

Bitterroot Mountains avalanche danger will be raised to “high” once snow starts falling, the avalanche center said.

In southeastern Montana, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center rated the avalanche danger as “high” on wind-loaded slopes steeper than 35 degrees in the Bridger, Gallatin and Madison ranges, the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone and the mountains around Cooke City.

“Today is not a day to trifle with the snowpack,” the center said in its report. “It’s ornery and getting more dangerous as more snow falls and wind blows.”