The location of the burial | Photo: Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center

The first avalanche fatality of the season occurred on Saturday when a pair of skiers were heading towards the north couloir on Imp Peak in Montana’s Madison Range reports the Gallatin Avalanche Center.

According to the GAC’s post to Facebook, the two skiers triggered the avalanche on their approach, resulting in one of the skiers becoming fully buried while the other skier was only partially buried in the slide. A recovery effort was executed by search and rescue personnel on Sunday.

The identity of the dearly departed has yet to be released.

*Our deepest condolences go out to the victim’s friends and family. 

Avalanche Incident Summary

With an unbelievably heavy heart, we are sad to report there was avalanche fatality on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range on Saturday. Two skiers were approaching the north couloir when they triggered the avalanche. Both were caught, one fully buried and one partial. The fully buried skier was recovered from the scene by Gallatin County Search and Rescue yesterday.

Alex and Doug went into the site yesterday and will be posting more details in the coming days.

Snowpack and Avalanche Discussion: 

Since Saturday night 6-10” fell in the northern mountains and 3-6” fell in the south. Ridgetop winds are westerly at 15-20 mph in the Bridger Range and are strong enough to drift snow and create wind slabs. Areas with the deepest snow, least amount of rocks, and most inviting skiing will be wind-loaded areas: gullies and higher elevation slopes. This presents a quandary because wind-loaded slopes are where someone could trigger an avalanche.

Avalanches are more easily triggering during a storm and soon after the snowfall and or wind-loading stops…today and tomorrow. Even small avalanches injure and kill. The sacred rules of backcountry travel are not loosened in October:

  • Carry rescue gear (beacon shovel and probe) along with other personal safety you normally carry mid-winter (i.e. helmet or airbag).
  • Only expose one person at a time in avalanche terrain, both heading up and sliding down.
  • Cracking and collapsing of the snow, most likely in wind drifts, are signs that slopes are unstable and could avalanche.

With snow on the ground, now is a good time to sharpen our minds and check our gear. Replace batteries in your beacon, recharge your airbag, make sure probe poles aren’t sticky, and shovel parts fit together smoothly. There are many avalanche education opportunities this fall, such as an avalanche workshop next Wednesday evening (October 11) at MSU. Check out the full education offerings HERE.

WATCH: The Best Avalanche Safety Video Ever! #KBYG

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