Avalanches kill four people in U.S. this year, two in MT - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Avalanches kill four people in U.S. this year, two in MT

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BOZEMAN- In a winter marked by heavy snowpack in the west, four people have been killed by avalanches nationwide so far. Two of those deaths have been in Montana.

In October 2017, 23-year-old Inge Perkins was hit by an avalanche while skiing on Imp Peak in the Madisons. On Jan. 2, Weylon Weideman, 40, died after his snowmobile triggered a slide in the Cabin Creek area near West Yellowstone.

Doug Chabot with the Gallatin Forest Avalanche Center says several people this winter have had close calls in the backcountry.

“Everything can be all great and safe, we’re having a wonderful time, and within a snap of the fingers, everything can change,” Chabot says. “In four separate incidents in the last 10 days, we’ve had six people get caught in slides, burying five of them.”

In Weideman’s case, avalanche danger was only listed as “moderate” at the time. Chabot says avalanche danger warnings don’t necessarily increase after a person has been involved.

“When we're rating the avalanche danger, we're using a few different parameters to rate that,” he says. “And human traffic isn’t one of them, meaning, like, we don't make an area that sees more people with a higher danger. Because we're basing it on snowpack and travel advice."

Chabot says no matter the conditions, preparedness can make a life or death difference in the backcountry.

“All of this happens incredibly fast, and that’s why it’s important to have some training and to have the right gear,” he says, “Because you won’t have time to think about what to do, you just have to respond. Because if someone is caught and someone is buried, the best chance of them surviving is you getting there quickly and digging them out.”

Backcountry skiers are advised to take an avalanche safety class before heading out; click here to see a list of regional workshops.

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