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Experts offer avalanche safety tips for backcountry

By Paige Sedgewick, Reporter, psedgewick@kcfw.com
Published On: Jan 08 2014 09:31:57 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 08 2014 09:41:18 PM MST
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Before heading out in the backcountry to enjoy some skiing, it's important to know the weather conditions, especially the possibility of avalanches.

Having fun in the backcountry can come with a risk. An avalanche expert we talked to says making sure you’re fully prepared with the proper safety gear is key.

"An avalanche beacon, also known as a transceiver, a shovel and making sure it's a strong sturdy metal shovel as well as a collapsible probe -- those are the three main pieces of gear that you absolutely need,” said Erich Peitzch.

Avalanche experts strongly suggest that before you head out to the backcountry to enjoy some recreational activities, you check out the avalanche advisory for the day.

"The scale consists of five categories and it's Low, Moderate, Considerable, High and Extreme. Those are the five and again each has their own specific definition,” said Peitzch.

One cross-country skiing enthusiast says that he checks the advisory frequently before heading out to the backcountry.

"I'll look and I'll read the forecasts and it will tell me what the snow conditions are for different areas in the Flathead, so it gives me an idea of what is going on," said Don Scharfe.

Scharfe explains what he looks for specifically before heading out -- "If the avalanche danger is high, I'm going to make a lot of different decisions. I'm going to stay in trees, I'm going to stay in lower, not as steep of terrain skiing." 

Peitzch puts together YouTube videos showing different problems that can cause an avalanche. In one video he explains what a persistent slab is.

Peitzch stresses how important it is to be knowledgeable and says taking a course would be a smart idea.