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Corgi found 4 days after swept away by deadly avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — A family consumed by grief after a husband and father was killed by an avalanche in Montana last week got something to pick up their spirits:

Their dog, buried in the avalanche, surfaced and was found alive four days later.

Read on for the remarkable story from Brett French of the Billings Gazette.

Winterfest packs two-days of events, activities at 49 Degrees North

WINTER SPORTS — No place in the Inland Northwest will have more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities this weeked than the annual Winterfest at 49 Degrees North.

The events are in the downhill ski area as well as on the nordic ski trail system.

From the endurance test of the hill climb and ski down, telemark lessons and gear demos to the night-time nordic ski tours and snowshoe walks and even a paintball biathlon race, this is one  ambitious ageda, sponsored by the resort and Mountain Gear.

Note FREE nordic trail ski passes on Saturday and $5 passes on Sunday.

Read on for the entire list of events:

Cheap getaway: Winterfest at 49 Degrees a free-heel bargain

WINTER SPORTS — Nordic skiers and snowshoers should check out the lineup of events and activities for Winterfest, sponsored by Mountain Gear, Jan. 7-8 at 49 Degrees North.

This is a screaming deal:  Free demos, free mini lessons and free trail passes.

Plus, tons of fun from ski races to paintball biathlon.

 Enjoy the moonlight ski and snowshoe tours, and then say overnight on the mountain — bring a sleeping bag and stay for just $15 at the Learning Center. 

"It’s fun and cheap," said 49 Degrees Nordic guru Doug Elledge, in a classic bit of understatement.

Avalanche advisory: Big transition expected

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center has offered suggestions for winter backcountry travelers in its weekly advisory posted today.

Overall, conditions are fairly safe — for now!

"Be cautious near ridgelines and where wind deposited snow is deeper and possibly firmer overlying a weak layer fo surface hoar," says Kevin Davis. "We'll probably have another buried layer of surface hoar after the storm forecast for Saturday and this will set the stage for increasing avalanche danger in what looks to be a snowy week ahead….

"Be thinking more snow equals more instability on weak layers.  You can check the weak layers pretty easily since they'll be easy to find in the sugary snow above the thick Thanksgiving ice crust, about the upper 1-2 feet of the pack."

Read on for the full 12-23-11 avalanche advisory:

Climbing: Pays to be tough guy when self-rescue is only option

ICE CLIMBING — A climber suffers serious injuries while ice climbing in Wyoming.  Feel the pain with him and the helplessness of his partner as they focus on getting to safety.

Would you have done anything differently?

Would you have made it?

Wind, warming changes avalanche conditions in mountains

WINTER SPORTS — "We just began Chapter II of winter 2011/12," Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center says in an announcement this afternoon. 

"This change in weather is introducing a significant load to a weak snowpack.  As of the sending of this email (Tuesday 3:30 p.m.) freezing levels have risen to 6,000 feet and above and precipitation is rain or a snow/rain mix.  Winds are picking up and blowing a consistent 20 mph with higher gusts; direction seems to be variable but prevailing westerly. 

"Expect an unstable inverted snowpack with heavy wet snow overlying a dry weak base.  Unstable conditions will remain with the passage of the pineapple express and a natural avalanche cycle may become widespread. 

"Human triggered avalanches will be likely for a period following this but you should have some good clues as, "where not to go", if you choose to venture out.  Travel in avalanche terrain is not advised. "

Read on for the full pre-season advisory.

Avalanche awareness classes scheduled by Idaho Panhandle experts

WINTER SPORTS —  Backcountry travelers are urged to sign up for one of several free avalanche classes being presented by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center as well as Idaho State Parks and Recreation.

While groups can book special avalanche classes — The Spokane Mountaineers have a session booked in January — here are public sessions scheduled so far:

In Sandpoint, the following two-hour presentations start at 6 p.m. in the new Forest Service Building, west of town on the way to Dover.

Dec. 15, “Beacon Practice Avy Gear Review.”

Jan. 10, “Fire and Ice, Risk Assessment and Situational Awareness.”

Jan. 27-28, Special indoor and outdoor training especially for snowmobilers. (Check it out at Idaho State Parks snowmobile eduation program)

Feb. 10, “Ten Years of Avalanche Fatalities in North Idaho.”

Info: Kevin Davis  (208) 265-6686

A Silver Valley class, “Avalanche Awareness, Route Finding, and Rescue,” is sent for Jan. 21 at the Forest Service building in Smelterville. The indoors session starts at 10 a.m. followed in the afternoon by a field session for beacon practice and rescue training at Mullan Pass.

Info: Dan Frigard, (208) 883-2131.

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho State Parks and the Avalanche Center will conduct free classes especially for snowmobilers on Jan. 13-14.

Info: Idaho State Parks snowmobile eduation program or call Marc Hildesheim, North Region trails specialist, (208) 769-1511.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will begin issuing regular avalanche advisories on Friday mornings beginning Dec. 16, said Kevin Davis, Forest Service hydro tech in Sandpoint.

The center is working on a new website with information that will be available to smartphones.

Idaho Panhandle avalanche expert sizes up current conditions

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will begin issuing regular avalanche advisories on Friday mornings beginning Dec. 16, said Kevin Davis, Forest Service hydro tech in Sandpoint.

The center is working on a new website with information that will be available to smartphones.

Meantime, read on for Davis’s observations on current conditions for winter backcountry travelers.

Northwest Avalanche Center begins daily forecasting

WINTER SPORTSThe Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center  began daily avalanche forecasting this week, and the season has started with a bang.

An avalanche watch went into effect last night as new snow has piled up in the Cascades and Olympics over the past few days, and more is on the way.

NWAC produces daily mountain weather and avalanche forecasts for the Olympics and Cascade Mountains from Mt Baker to Mt Hood. Backcountry recreationists and those crossing the mountain passes are encouraged to check the avalanche forecast before heading out into the mountains in the winter.

In the Inland Northwest, check the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

Avalanche damage extensive to Glacier’s Sperry Chalet

NATIONAL PARKS — A century-old rock chalet in Glacier National Park that was damaged by a winter avalanche may be open for only a few weeks this summer after crews working to ready the backcountry hotel for the tourist season found additional damage to the two-story lodging and its kitchen building.

The Missoulian reports that workers giving the buildings a more thorough inspection have found damage to the roofs and rafters from the heavy snow load this winter.

In a post on the chalet's web site Thursday, chalet coordinator Kevin Warrington said repair crews will need complete access to the hotel for much of July as well as in late August and September.

Sperry Chalet's season was scheduled to begin July 8, but all reservations are being cancelled through July 19. Reservations in September and some in the last week of August also are being canceled.

Read on for details.

Avalanches rock and roll on Rainier

NATIONAL PARKS — Some of the biggest rock avalanches in years have been roaring off Mount Rainier the past several days, kicking up billowing clouds of dust and propelling rivers of muddy debris nearly two miles down the volcano’s flanks, according to an Associated Press report.

No one's been hurt, but climbers have had to flee certain areas.

Check out this video of a major slide this week.

Read on for details.

Season hasn’t ended for Panhandle avalanche forecasters

 WINTER-LIKE SPRING TRAVEL — Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest Avalanche Center woke to an inch of new snow at Sandpoint. He kicked into gear this morning to revise his "spring" avalanche advisory even though his reporting season ended two weeks ago.

"We thought winter was over but it’s kind of not," he said.

In the high country, snow depths continue to increase rather than degrease, with more than 16 feet of snow recorded at some Snotel sites.

The Panhandle is 153 percent of average for snowpack, the Spokane drainage area is 147 percent and the Clearwater region is at about 142 pecent of an average snowpack this year.

Read on for Davis's observations for anyone venturing into the region's avalanche terrain this spring.

Avalanche Center posts tips on surviving ample spring snow load

WINTER SPORTS — Even though the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center's official reporting season ended last week, hydrologic technichian Kevin Davis was compelled to post more advice this morning after scouting the region's winter-like snowpack this week.

Check out his full Spring Advisory, which includes tips on how to maximixe your sliding quality  — and safety — when that spring sunshine is beating down.

"We're doing much better than last year for snowpack so your winter adventures could last well into June, depending on how the snow comes off," Davis said in his opening remarks to the advisory.  

"Silver Mountain was reporting large avalanches with their explosive control last Sunday and we have received quite a bit of snow in the last week.  I heard lots of bombs going off at Schweitzer Monday - Wednesday."

Snowpack thick as last avalanche advisory issued for season

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center issued its final avlanche advisory of the season this morning even though deep snow still shrouds the region's mountains — and the delayed corn-snow, wet-snow cycle has not yet begun.

Generally, avalanche danger is LOW in the Selkirk Mountains with MODERATE danger found on windloaded aspects steeper than 35 degrees above 5,000 feet. 

The St. Regis Basin region poses more concern and generally MODERATE danger because of rain on the slopes this week.

Be especially wary of wind-loaded and wind-hardened slopes, the advisors say.

Says Eric Morgan, avalanche technician:

The conditions will be dynamic as we will be at or near the freezing mark in the upper elevations. This will likely be the last report of the year so I would like to emphasize the importance of the persistent Martin Luther King Weekend crust that exists deep in the snow pack and to urge you all to watch for if and when the spring temps rise at how much they rise and how much stress is being put on that deep persistent ice crust.

Snowboarder’s death focuses concern on spring snowpack

WINTER SPORTS — The weekend avalanche death of a snowboarder near Stevens Pass has sobered some backcountry travelers, and brought forth some worthwhile thoughts. 

Following is a comment from a skier named Ed posted with the news story about the death. It follows the same train of thought in the recommendations of the weekly avalanche forecast for this region.

Check it out.

Weekly avalanche advisory: New snow, mixed conditions

WINTER SPORTS — Snow continues to fall in the high country, creating a mix of conditions and for backcountry travelers, according to the weekly avalanche advisory just posted by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

Generally, avalanche conditions are MODERATE in the region with CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger on windloaded aspects steeper than 35 degrees above 5,000 feet. 

Read the entire advisory before heading out. 

Avalanche advisory: Layered snowpack a concern

WINTER SPORTS — Warmer days followed by cool nights and continued snowfall are creating a stew of conditions for backcountry winter travlers to consider, says Kevin Davis from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center in Sandpoint.

Generally, the weekly avalanche advisory posted this morning rates avalanche conditions as MODERATE in most areas.  However, there are many caveats considered in the report that travelers should read.

"I think its going to be one of those springs where we get powder in the hills into mid April," Davis said. "This could lead to a continuation of the conditions we are experiencing today.  

"Be cautious of weak layers in the new snow and then rapid warming of the new snow.

"It's easy to check weak layers that are less than a foot deep.  Just isolate a block with your hand about 1 foot square on a steep little slope, like a road cut, and tap on the uphill side and see how easily it slides off the block.  

If it jumps off with little pressure, better pay attention. Do this on other slopes and elevations as you travel.  

We'll issue a spring travel tips advisory next week to keep you abreast of the constantly changing conditions this time of year.

Weekly avalanche advisory: beware of wind-loaded slopes

WINTER SPORTS — The Inland Northwest avalanche advisory issued this morning notes moderate to considerable danger for avalanche, especially on the wind-slab areas of the Selkirks and Lookout Pass area.

The heavy snowfall of the past week in the Lookout area has not posed much more than moderate danger except on slopes steeper than 35 degrees and above 5,000 feet, reports the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center .

"Exciting stuff happening in North Idaho this past week," said Kevin G. Davis, Avalanche Center hydrologic technician in Sandpoint. "Generally great sliding conditions out there today.  A little trickier to the south of our forecast region with the tremndous snow accumulation.  Be cautious on steep windloaded slopes where stress to layers that formed Tuesday/Wednesday with new snow and wind have not completely settled."

REI offers free class in Avalanche Awareness

WINTER SPORTS — Jon Dodge of Priest Lake Search & Rescue will teach a free introductory course on Avalanche Awareness Thursday, March 3, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at REI, 1125 N Monroe.

Basics he’ll cover include how to interpret avalanche advisories, gear necessary for travelling in avalanche terrain and how to assess the risks.

Pre-register for this free event. 

Avalanche advisory: now is safer than later

WINTER SPORTS — The Inland Northwest avalanche advisory issued this morning notes that snow that accumulated in the cold temperatures of recent storm is light enough to warrant only "considerable" avalanche danger in many (not all) areas.  But a change is expected around Sunday.

The coldest snow temperatues recorded this morning at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center was -18F at Hidden Lake in the northern Selkirks.  

"This cold weather is weakening the entire pack but most significantly in the upper 3 feet where we have some weak layers around crusts and changing density storm snow," said Kevin Davis, center director.  "Luckily, for now the load from the new snow this week is light and it is not adding alot of stress to these weak layers.  It is most unstable where wind-loaded or hardened by wind.  The situation will change on Sunday when we get rising temperatures and more snow, and this will bury another layer of surface hoar.  Enjoy it now, bundle up, and be safe."

Weekly avalanche forecast: danger ranges moderate to high

WINTER SPORTS — The weekly avalanche forecast posted today by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center indicates that backcountry winter travelers need to pay close attention to conditions in specific areas.

In the Selkirks from Schweitzer north to Caribou Creek the danger is generally rated as MODERATE for the weekend. However, route selection in the Selkirks is important, experts said. "Last weekend’s wind loading and heavy wind slab on the North and Easterly exposed slopes failed naturally in several areas,' rasiding the danger to CONSIDERABLE in those areas.

St. Regis Basin and Silver Valley showed a MUCH GREATER HAZARD.

The hazard will be HIGH anyhere there's pocktes of big cornices and wind-loaded features.


Avalanche accidents reviewed in Sandpoint on Wednesday

WINTER SPORTS — Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center technicians will present, "10 Years of Avalanche Accident Review in North Idaho" Wednesday (Feb. 9) at 6 p.m. at the Sandpoint Forest Service Building.

The hour-long discussion will focus on common characteristics involved in several fatal avalanche accidents and how winter travelers can learn to recognize similar circumstances in the weather patterns, snowpack, and the terrain they choose to play in, said Kevin Davis, IPAC spokesman. 

Google Earth will be used to study terrain.

Sandpoint avalanche clinic for all snowgoers

WINTER SPORTS — A free avalanche workshop for all snowgoers is set for Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the Forest Service Building in Sandpoint.

The topic to be tackled by the team of Forest Service technicians at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center"What we can learn from 10 years of avalanche accident review in North Idaho?"

Contact: Kevin Davis, (208) 265-6686, kevingdavis@fs.fed.us.

Group or clubs can contact Davis regarding free avalanche classes.

Avalanche danger ‘considerable’ in many areas

WINTER S PORTS — The avalanche advisory issued by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center this morning warns of "considerable" danger on many areas of the Inland Northwest.

Avalanche conditions for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest are rated as Considerable on wind loaded aspects above 5000 feet.  Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely.  

Avalanche conditions are MODERATE on other aspects and elevations below 4500 feet.  Natural avalanches are unlikely and human caused avalanches are possible.

See the complete avalanche advisory here.

Read on for more details from this morning's advisory:

Avalanche workshops for all snowgoers

WINTER SPORTS — The next free avalanche workshop in Sandpoint for all snowgoers is set for Feb. 9.

The topic to be tackled by the team from the Forest Service technicians at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center"What we can learn from 10 years of avalanche accident review in North Idaho?"

The program starts at 6 p.m. at the Forest Service Building in Sandpoint.

Contact: Kevin Davis, (208) 265-6686, kevingdavis@fs.fed.us.

In the Silver Valley, the next workshop is set for 9 a.m. on Jan. 22: It's billed as an interactive class focusing on avalanche dynamics.or class schedules

Contact: Dan Frigard, (208) 752-5130.

In Avery, contact Ed Odegaard, (208) 245-6209, eodegaard@fs.fed.us for class schedules.

Group or clubs can contact the technicians listed above to schedule free avalanche classes.

Join the avalanche warning team

WINTER SPORTS — Anyone winter snow traveler who sees avalanche activity in North Idaho or the adjoining areas of Washington and Montana can boost the safety of other snowgoers by reporting their observations to the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center in Sandpoint.

"We would appreciate hearing from anyone who happens to observe any recent avalanche activity while out in the backcountry or just wants to let us know what is going on in their area," said Kevin Davis, hydrologic technician.
Contact: Kevin Davis (208) 265-6686, kevingdavis@fs.fed.us

Avalanche danger rated high region-wide

WINTER SPORTS — Joining the Idaho Panhandle's warning posted on Wednesday, the Washington State Avalanche Center is warning of a high avalanche danger today in the Washington Olympics, Cascades and the Mount Hood area of Oregon.

The center says winds and rains could weaken layers of snow.

The danger should lessen Friday but increase again Saturday with more warming, winds and rain in the forecast, the center says.

The warning covers backcountry terrain and does not apply to ski areas.

Avalanche bulletin: Danger rated high

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle National Forests has issued a warning that avalanche danger is rated as high in many areas as a storm and changing weather conditions engulf the Inland Northwest.

Mountain visitors are urged to check weather and avalanche reports, and use caution when skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling in the national forest, officials said in a press release issued today.
Here's a summary report issued by the Panhandle Avalanche Center.
Current and predicted heavy storm activity is increasing the avalanche hazard in the Inland Northwest to HIGH. According to the American Avalanche Association, “Natural avalanches are likely; human triggered avalanches very likely.”
Based on current analysis, the underlying snow pack conditions are an ideal running surface for avalanches at all elevations.  Winter recreationists should beware of slopes greater than 30 degrees. As the week progresses, avalanche danger is expected to increase due to wind loading and warm temperatures turning to rain.
The center will release its next compelete avalanche forecast Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

Avalanche workshop for snowmobilers

WINTER SPORTS — Free avalanche workshops for snowmobilers are being offered in North Idaho in the next few weeks by the state Parks and Recreation Department and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests avalanche experts.

The schedule:

  • Jan. 14-15, based in Coeur d’ Alene.
  • Jan 28-29, based in St. Maries.
  • Feb. 11-12, based in Bonners Ferry.

The workshops include indoor and outdoor sessions.

Info: Idaho Parks and Recreation Department or call Marc Hildesheim, North Region trails specialist, (208) 769-1511.