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Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center creates smartphone app

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 08 2014 11:04:51 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 08 2014 11:10:47 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

When it comes to alerting you to danger in the backcountry, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center now has an app for that.

Every morning Mark Staples and the team at the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center come in at 4 a.m. to look at weather and snow pack data, make field observations, and assess the day's conditions in the backcountry. They send out a daily avalanche advisory with their findings by 7:30.

"The avalanche danger can change dramatically from day to day," avalanche specialist Mark Staples explained.

People can read the advisories on the GNFAC website or through daily email blasts, but now there's an easier way.

"At this point we have about 30 percent of the traffic from our website is via mobile devices," Staples said, "so we just want to make it one step easier for folks to get our avalanche advisory that comes out every morning."

The solution is a smart phone app, an easy and accessible way to make sure you know what you're getting into before you head out to the mountain.

"Our goal is to get avalanche information out to as many people as easily as possible," Staples said.

But, Staples explained, the app is designed to bring information and awareness to a point. The rest is up to the skier or snowboarder.

"Our goal is to get the information before they head out the door or when they're at the trail head," he explained.

He emphasized the most crucial way to protect yourself is education.

"We do classes throughout Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Cooke City, throughout Montana," Staples said. "We think that is really how we spend most of our time and money and that's on education efforts."

Staples said the app is a useful tool, but is just one part of overall mountain safety.

"We all know how reliable phones are in the mountains, and it's definitely not something you want to bet your life on," said Staples.

The app is only available for Android phones, but an iPhone version is in the works and will be available sometime this season. To find the app, search "GNFAC Advisory" in your Android app store, or visit www.mtavalanche.com for more information.

Here are Wednesday's avalanche conditions posted on the app by the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center: They've rated the Bridger, Gallatin, Madison ranges and the Lionhead and Cooke City areas at "considerable." That's because there are signs of poor instability, which could lead to natural and human-triggered avalanches.