Bighorn National Forest warns of increased the potential for avalanches, snow slides

(Sheridan, Wyo.) — Recent snow and weather conditions have increased the potential for snow to slide in the Bighorn National Forest, according to Susan Douglas, public affairs specialist for the Forest Service. A snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche in the Bighorns Friday when the force of the snow separated him from his snowmobile. The weight of the snowpack, high winds and fluctuating snow temperatures cause slabs to form, leading to unstable slopes that are prone to break loose, according to Douglas. Conditions change quickly in the mountains, so snowmobilers, snowshoers, and skiers should be prepared by carrying the proper equipment – beacons, probe poles, and shovels – and being aware of the terrain, weather, and snowpack conditions. Here at Dally , we turned sister-site Jackson Hole Buckrail , who talked to Bob Comey, avalanche forecaster for the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center, at the beginning of the winter season about avalanche safety. According to Comey, there are four types of avalanche problems: - Wind slabs: A wind slab is a the release of a cohesive layer of snow formed by the wind. - Storm Slabs: A storm slab is the release of a soft cohesive layer of new snow that breaks within the storm snow or on the old snow surface. - Persistent Slabs: A persistent slab is the release of a cohesive layer of soft to hard snow in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. - Deep Persistent Slabs: Deep persistent slabs are when there is a release of a thick cohesive layer of hard snow, when the bond breaks between the slab and an underlying persistent weak layer, deep in the snowpack or near the ground. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center recently did research where they looked at 90 avalanche fatalities over 15 years in Colorado. The study showed that the most fatalities are the result of persistent and deep persistent slabs. "Between those two types of avalanches [persistent and deep persistent], they kill almost 85 percent of the people," said Comey. More avalanche awareness information is available from #dally #news