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Idaho Avalanche Kills One Skier, Injures Five Others

Avalanche danger for Jan. 07, 2020 in the Idaho panhandle and western Montana.
Avalanche danger for Jan. 07, 2020 in the Idaho panhandle and western Montana.

Silver Mountain Ski Resort in the Idaho Panhandle announced Tuesday that an avalanche killed one skier and injured five others. The slide follows wet, heavy snowfall over the past couple of days, which is also keeping avalanche danger high in the backcountry.

The avalanche at Silver Mountain occurred late Tuesday morning. The resort reported 26 inches of snowfall in the past couple of days, much of it wet and heavy. The resort did not return a call for comment, but did announce late Tuesday afternoon on social media that the search for additional skiers was ongoing. It’s unknown if others may still be trapped.

Avalanche danger for Jan. 07, 2020 in the Idaho panhandle and western Montana.
Credit Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center
Avalanche danger for Jan. 07, 2020 in the Idaho panhandle and western Montana.

Much of northern Idaho and northwest Montana received wet, heavy snow at high elevations over the past couple of days. Both the Idaho Panhandle and Flathead avalanche centers say that snow fell on top of unstable, fluffier layers.

Lead forecaster in the Idaho Panhandle Jeff Thompson.

"I dug this morning in the backcountry in the Selkirks and saw that those deeper instabilities are starting to wake up, and I think this load from this snow is going to increase the danger for sure."

Thompson’s counterpart in the Flathead Valley, Blase Reardon, says northwest Montana is seeing similar conditions.

"There’s also some very persistent weak layers from our last high-elevation freezing rain event, which was New Years Eve, and that layer has some weak snow right around it, just under it."

Both Reardon and Thompson say another storm system is on its way and could drop significant snow before the weekend. Avalanche dangers are likely to remain high and both forecast centers are encouraging skiers to keep an eye on the forecast and wear safety gear.

In a separate incident, authorities say two snowmobilers recently died near Seeley Lake in an avalanche triggered when two riders tried to dig out another rider stuck in the snow.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.