Trip Planning for Northern Madison

as of 5:00 am
Feb 110″ | 20-55 W
Feb 10 1″ | 20-35 W
Feb 9 0″ | 15-35 NW
9400′     5/20 at 9:00
18 ℉
N - 12 mph, Gusts 32
-6999 " New
8880′   05/20 at 08:00
24℉
54″ Depth
Bottom Line:

Past 5 Days

Tue Feb 8

Low
Wed Feb 9

Low
Thu Feb 10

Low
Fri Feb 11

Low
Thu Apr 21

None

Relevant Avalanche Activity

Northern Gallatin
Mt Blackmore
Small, Skier-Triggered Avalanche Blackmore
Incident details include images
Mt Blackmore
L-ASu-R1-D1
Coordinates: 45.4444, -111.0040
Caught: 0 ; Buried: 0

From Obs: "We skied into Blackmore late yesterday with chief concerns of the weak layer @ around 110cm and wind loaded new slopes. We dug two pits and found no failures in our column or ECTs. With the wind on the ridge we dug a hasty pit near the ridge to see how it was bonding. Again no results.

We decided to ski our lines taking care to avoid potential trigger zones and particularly loaded slopes. About half way down, I took a turn to the skier's left of a spine and the skier's right side had a small surface-level release. This would probably not have buried a skier, but likely would have taken them or a ride above the cliff band."


More Avalanche Details
Cooke City
Goose Lake
Partial Burial on Sawtooth Mountain near Goose Lake
Incident details include images
Goose Lake
SS-ASu-R2-D2-O
Elevation: 10,800
Aspect: SE
Coordinates: 45.1437, -109.9040
Caught: 1 ; Buried: 1; Killed: 0

This morning while ascending a line on Sawtooth Mountain (Lower Novocain) we triggered an avalanche (ASu-SS-R2-D2-O)  that caught and carried my partner an estimated 180M and partially buried him. His leg and hand were unburied and excavation of the head was done in less than 2 minutes of the incident. The avalanche only involved new snow from the last 48hrs and was triggered on a MF crust/facet combo 30cm down(formed 1/30/22). The avalanche was 30cm at its deepest and 20-30M wide and ran 250M. We were lucky to find both skis and poles a little ways downslope. No injuries were sustained.

We both agree that we were trying to outsmart the instability that was present on steeper S facing terrain and should have turned around much sooner, we were very lucky. There was 30+cm HST in favored areas and the high winds from 1/31/22 formed some sensitive windslabs in specific areas. 

 


More Avalanche Details
Northern Madison
Wilson Peak
Natural cornice triggered slide SW gully of Wilson Peak
Incident details include images
Wilson Peak
SS-NC-R2-D2
Coordinates: 45.3270, -111.3250
Caught: 0 ; Buried: 0

From obs 1/29/22: "Avalanche appeared to have been caused by a breaking cornice on lookers left. Probably from Friday"


More Avalanche Details

Relevant Photos

Displaying 1 - 40
  • Chris Hericks, snow ranger on Beaverhead Deerlodge NF, points to the lower of two surface hoar layers. We are finding similar layering throughout our entire forecast area. The top 18" of the snowpack is weak and will quickly become unstable when it snows. Photo: GNFAC

  • The crown is not visible (it is down and right) but the X marks the approximate spot the rider was found. Photo: GNFAC

  • The crown was measured 4-11 inches deep and 75 feet wide. Photo: GNFAC

  • Looking at a weak layer of facets that the avalanche propagated on. Photo: GNFAC

  • Looking at the crown from below. Photo: GNFAC

  • On Sunday, February 6, Gallatin Country Sheriff Search and Rescue and the GNFAC responded to a avalanche in Lionhead. A snowmobiler was killed on a small steep slope when a shallow avalanche carried him into a terrain trap of trees. Photo: GNFAC

  • This morning while ascending a line on Sawtooth Mountain (Lower Novocain) we triggered an avalanche (ASu-SS-R2-D2-O)  that caught and carried my partner an estimated 180M and partially buried him. His leg and hand were unburied and excavation of the head was done in less than 2 minutes of the incident. The avalanche only involved new snow from the last 48hrs and was triggered on a MF crust/facet combo 30cm down(formed 1/30/22). The avalanche was 30cm at its deepest and 20-30M wide and ran 250M. We were lucky to find both skis and poles a little ways downslope. No injuries were sustained.

    We both agree that we were trying to outsmart the instability that was present on steeper S facing terrain and should have turned around much sooner, we were very lucky. There was 30+cm HST in favored areas and the high winds from 1/31/22 formed some sensitive windslabs in specific areas. 

     

  • Graph of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) at SNOTEL sites in the GNFAC forecast area from October 1, 2021 to January 30, 2022. It highlights the extended dry conditions in January that contributed to weak layers forming at the top of the snowpack. GNFAC

  • From obs. 1/29/22: "Avalanche appeared to have been caused by a breaking cornice on lookers left. Probably from Friday [1/28]." Photo: A. Pfaffinger (zoomed in from original photo)

  • This test broke and propagated with some "extracurricular" hits in an extended column test in Beehive Basin. Photo: N Rustigian

  • A view of Sacajewea Peak from the Fairy Lake road. Evidence of winds are seen on the right shoulder of the peak. Photo: GNFAC

  • Slopes on Hardscabble Peak in the northern Bridger Range show bare slopes that got blown clean by wind. Photo: GNFAC

  • In the northern Bridger Range we dug a pit at 8700 feet on a north facing slope before skiing the chute into the basin. Our stability tests did not break and all evidence pointed to a LOW danger. Photo: GNFAC

  • Settlement rings around the base of trees near Cooke City, January 15, 2022. Photo: B. Fredlund

  • Large cornices in 2nd Yellowmule on Buck Ridge. 1/13/22. Photo: GNFAC

  • Looking up at the Fat Maid from Maid of the Mist basin. Strong winds over the last week have scoured the alpine, exposing lots of rock. Photo: GNFAC

  • Strong wind over the last week created this surface texture in the Bridger Range. Photo: T. Allen

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • Photo from Crunchy the blue heeler (@crunchy_adventures)

    From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • It was easy to crack the thin wind slabs that formed from strong wind the last 2 days. They were not propagating, but cracking indicated potential instability on wind drifts. Photo: GNFAC

  • Strong wind in the previous 2 days sculpted the snow surface into waves of sastrugi. Photo: GNFAC

  • Wind in the last 2 days gusted 45-70 mph and stripped some starting zones down to dirt in Beehive Basin. Photo: GNFAC

  • From obs (12/25/21): "Cornice failure on beehive / bear basin ridge, ~9,200 ft. West side of ridge stripped clean, east side looked pretty loaded"

  • We intentionally triggered this 6-8" deep wind slab on Saddle Peak on December 23, 2021, E aspect at 9,000'. It showed us that recently formed wind slabs were still reactive. This hard slab formed over low density new snow which made it unstable. While not large, these slides will easily push you down and can be harmful if they push you into hazardous obstacles or terrain traps. Photo: GNFAC

  • Cornices that formed mid-slope, indicating recent heavy wind-loading in the Bridger Range. Strong southwest wind between 12/18 and 12/19/21 drifted recent snow into hard, pillowy drifts. We avoided these drifts on steep slopes to give them a day or two to stabilize. Photo: GNFAC

  • These pillowy, hard drifts formed from strong southwest wind overnight between 12/18 and 12/19/21 in the Bridger Range. We saw minimal signs of instability, lke whumphing or cracking in these drifts, but avoided these features on steep slopes until they have more time to gain stability. Photo: GNFAC

  • From obs: "On the way up on the West facing ridge we found facets to the ground below 17cm with that large ice layer on top. Given the low density of the new snow sitting on top, we ascended to Bear Basin-Middle Ridge via the ridge and lower angle gully. Photo is taken at 2860m, East facing on the ridge between Beehive Basin and Middle basin. Layers in the photo are easily distinguishable in the photo. We decided not to ski into Middle Basin and descended back the way we came up. On the ridge winds were blowing East ~15mph and cornices were present. Wind loading to the East looked visible to the eye by the lumps in the snow."

    Photo: "T. Hoefler"

  • On 12/16/21 A skier in a group of three triggered and was caught in this avalanche next to The Apron at Bridger Bowl. The ski area is closed and backcountry conditions exist. Nobody was injured.

    From e-mail: "We had a group of three skiing up at the Bridger Apron today. We skied a more main slope in the field north of the slope with hidden couloir, snow was very stable and has been getting a lot of tracks. For a second run we skinned up the main slope under hidden and started our run in the trees slightly south of this slope. Not many tracks over there and not a good enough evaluation of the snowpack. We were planning on skiing a northeast facing chute through the trees that had very nice looking snow similar to what we had skiied earlier. I skiied in and had about 3 amazing turns, definitely partially due to the wind loading at this aspect. After three turns my feet were taking out from under me and I got caught in a slide keeping skis perpendicular to slope for 15-20’. This avalanche carried me rapidly and cleared the snow to the rocks below in which I was able to come to a hault and watch the rest of the sluff slide past me. After looking at the conditions after, this windy aspect seemed to have a very faceted layer about 8” down that acted as the crown. No injuries, a lost ski pole in the runout which extended down the slope maybe another 40’. The wind scoop on top and seeing these facets should have been a clear sign prior to skiing. Must be more diligent even in areas of high traffic. When dropping in to ski on first turn or so I remember hearing a possible whumpf."

  • From IG 12/12/21: @montanamountainmedicine

  • From obs: 12/12/21: "Heavy wind loading from gusty SW winds and recent snowfall. Made for some touchy conditions. This was at 9100’ between Sage and Sunlight basins." Photo: JR Mooney

  • From obs: 12/12/21: "Shooting cracks and whoomphing in wind loaded areas. An approximately 15x30ft wind slab cracked along the base of a rock band and settled at the base of P2 on high fidelity. Was triggered while traversing along the rock band to gain the second pitch, 1-2 inches of facets on the ground. Wind slab of 6-36in in the gullies." Photo: M. Hearley

  • In the Bridger Range on December 10, 2021 2-3" of low density new snow was drifted into small soft slabs that were easy to trigger. Photo: GNFAC

  • This pit was dug in Hyalite Canyon near Twin Falls. It showed 2 mm facets (sugar snow) underlying the snowpack. This layer did not break in stability tests, but anticipate these grains will get weaker with time. Photo: GNFAC

  • For the Bozeman Ice Fest we investigated the Silken Falls and Avalanche Gulch gulleys. They were wind-loaded and had weak snow mid-pack that was unreactive. Avalanches in these gulleys would be deadly, so be extra vigilant in your assessment before crossing. Photo: GNFAC

  • For the Bozeman Ice Fest we investigated the Silken Falls and Avalanche Gulch gulleys. They were wind-loaded and had weak snow mid-pack that was unreactive. Avalanches in these gulleys would be deadly, so be extra vigilant in your assessment before crossing. Photo: GNFAC

  • We found 80 cm (2+ feet) of snow on a NE facing slope at 8,000 feet outside Bridger Bowl's Boundaries. The snow was supportable with a weak layer at the blue card. Faceted, weak, sugary snow is the layer of concern, but it was not that bad...yet. We'll be watching to see if it gets weaker. Photo: GNFAC

  • Monday night's new snow formed wind slabs from the strong wind on Tuesday. We are finding these throughout southwest Montana. Photo: D. Britt

  • New snow was blown into thick drifts that can be triggered by skiers or riders. Cracking like this is a sign that drifts are unstable and could slide on steeper slopes. Photo: GNFAC

WebCams


8800' Camera, Lone Peak view

Yellowstone Club, Timberline Chair

Snow Observations- Northern Madison

Northern Madison
Mt Blackmore
Small Skier Triggered Release at Blackmore
Incident details include images

We skied into Blackmore late yesterday with chief concerns of the weak layer @ around 110cm and wind loaded new slopes. We dug two pits and found no failures in our column or ECTs. With the wind on the ridge we dug a hasty pit near the ridge to see how it was bonding. Again no results.

We decided to ski our lines taking care to avoid potential trigger zones and particularly loaded slopes. About half way down, I took a turn to the skier's left of a spine and the skier's right side had a small surface-level release. This would probably not have buried a skier, but likely would have taken them or a ride above the cliff band. 

Full Snow Observation Report
Northern Madison
Bear Basin
Bear Basin East Facing ECTN23

East facing slope at 8700 ft. ECTN23 on layer of facets or depth hoar 60cm from the top. 1.9m snowpack. Multiple layers of weak snow and crust deeper in the snowpack and 10cm of sugar at the ground. Top 60 cm was new snow and not cohesive.

Same location 7 days previous produced no result.

Full Snow Observation Report
Northern Madison
Beehive Peak
Decent test on Beehive

Southeast face of Beehive Peak, just below (and to the side) of the exit from 4th of July Couloir -

ECTN, noticed layers approx. 30 and 45 cm down, but couldn't get anything to propagate. 

pit depth approx. 200 cm deep (see buried probes)

felt good about the objective - climbed and skied 4th of July. Glad we did.

Full Snow Observation Report

Snowpit Profiles- Northern Madison

 

Select a snowpit on the map to view the profile image

Weather Forecast Northern Madison

Extended Forecast for

5 Miles NNW Big Sky MT

  • Today

    Today: Snow before noon, then snow showers, mainly between noon and 4pm. Some thunder is also possible.  High near 27. North wind 16 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 80%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

    Snow

    High: 27 °F

  • Tonight

    Tonight: A 30 percent chance of snow, mainly before 10pm.  Patchy fog after 7pm.  Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 13. North wind 7 to 17 mph becoming east northeast after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph.  New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow
    and Patchy
    Fog then
    Areas Fog

    Low: 13 °F

  • Saturday

    Saturday: A chance of snow between 10am and 3pm, then a chance of snow showers after 3pm. Some thunder is also possible.  Areas of fog before 9am.  Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 34. East wind 8 to 13 mph becoming north in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 18 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow
    and Areas Fog

    High: 34 °F

  • Saturday
    Night

    Saturday Night: A 40 percent chance of snow, mainly before midnight.  Mostly cloudy, with a low around 19. Northeast wind 9 to 11 mph becoming south after midnight.  New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow

    Low: 19 °F

  • Sunday

    Sunday: A slight chance of snow before noon, then snow showers likely after noon. Some thunder is also possible.  Mostly cloudy, with a high near 36. South wind 7 to 10 mph becoming north northwest in the afternoon.  Chance of precipitation is 70%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

    Slight Chance
    Snow then
    Snow Showers
    Likely

    High: 36 °F

  • Sunday
    Night

    Sunday Night: A 30 percent chance of snow showers before midnight. Some thunder is also possible.  Partly cloudy, with a low around 22. North northeast wind 6 to 10 mph becoming southwest after midnight.  New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow
    Showers then
    Partly Cloudy

    Low: 22 °F

  • Monday

    Monday: A 20 percent chance of snow after noon.  Mostly sunny, with a high near 41. South southwest wind 6 to 11 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

    Mostly Sunny
    then Slight
    Chance Snow

    High: 41 °F

  • Monday
    Night

    Monday Night: A slight chance of snow.  Mostly cloudy, with a low around 27. West northwest wind 6 to 11 mph becoming south after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

    Slight Chance
    Snow

    Low: 27 °F

  • Tuesday

    Tuesday: A slight chance of snow before noon, then a chance of snow showers after noon. Some thunder is also possible.  Partly sunny, with a high near 41.

    Chance Snow
    Showers

    High: 41 °F

The Last Word

We completed our investigation of the avalanche fatality at Ski Hill in Lionhead. A detailed report is HERE, the field video is on our YouTube channel and the incident is recorded on our Accident Reports page.