Deadly Winter - A Look At A Yearlong Avalanche Cycle In Montana

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The Barrels in MontanaThe prevailing southwesterly winds begin to load The Barrels during the 2011-'12 winter in Montana.

Words and photos by Bridger Bowl avalancheThe first one, it peeked through the clouds one morning. A shallow snowpack and a 1- to 3-foot fracture. The instability clearly evident on the ground, the canary in the mine to what would end up an impressive yearlong avalanche cycle.

Mundys BowlPatrol worked this one loose in Mundy's bowl.

Bridger PeakBridger Peak went as well, it was nearly a mile long fracture, wrapping around to the unseen south face as well. Photo: Richard Griffen.

Saddle at Bridger BowlSaddle went fairly early, triggering off it's wind loaded northeast shoulder along the sugary rock band.

Deeper Slabs at BridgerMore snow resulted in deeper slabs, the ground rot neither crushed nor flushed.

Pat's Cryptic Photo
football fieldJust beyond the boundaries, the football field erases many tracks.

Bridger Bowl Ski PatrolPatrol working it hard to keep the in bounds safe.

Deep Hard SlabDeep hard slab. This one was skied on thousands of times before an overnight load tipped the scales.

An Impressive Crown LineErik Knoff investigating an impressive crown line. Lucky high marker. Photo: GNFAC

South Saddle avalancheSouth saddle was kind on this day. Photo: T Thesing

Doug Chabot Doug Chabot displaying what the areas snow pits were showing. He pulled that 6-foot column out in one piece, all of it sitting on sugar.

B gully avalancheThe morning it all came down. B gully to the ground.

Another Bridger Bowl avalanche

Powerful slides filled numerous gulliesPowerful slides filled numerous gullies. Photo: Morning Glory Uncorked
Bridger Bowl Ski PatrolA dicey situation managed expertly by the patrol.

Inbounds Avy at Bridger BowlAn icy mogul field is rooted out by weight from above.

Early Season, this can happenEarly season is when conditions like this can form. Every season and snowpack is different. Take only what she gives and always ride it with a smile!


Co-snow safety director at Bridger Bowl, Richard Griffen, was on the front lines and in closing adds:

"This was the worst snowpack year in my 17 years patrolling Bridger Bowl. Some years you just say, 'No - it isn't worth it.' If basic knowledge states signs of local activity, stay off avalanche terrain. Honor the storm; respect the mountains, live to ski another year."

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