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Mar 28, 2012 3:40 PM by Montana's News Station

Bridger Bowl lifts remain closed after 'impressive day' of avalanches

Most lifts at Bridger Bowl remain closed today after intentionally triggered and natural avalanches were reported at the ski area Tuesday.

All lifts except Powder Park and Snowflake are closed. The Bridger Lift is running to midway. Pierre's Knob could open on Thursday, but the Alpine Lift may not open for the rest of the year, Michael Gill, assistant director of marketing and sales at Bridger Bowl, said. Lift tickets are priced at $20.

Bridger Bowl experienced its most impressive day of wet slab avalanche activity in memory, Doug Chabot said in the daily report from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

"Avalanche cycles like this one are rare. It was only the second time in my 22 years of avalanche work that I've seen wet slab activity on this scale. Yesterday, the ski patrol triggered avalanches with explosives that gouged out groomed runs and road cuts plus put debris up to 20 foot deep in the gullies. New snow yesterday morning, above freezing temperatures, and a moist snowpack sitting on facets had stability teetering. Avalanches broke on soggy depth hoar at the ground. By midday explosives weren't needed and the patrol ski triggered wet loose slides that would step down to the facets," Chabot says in the report.

Chabot says he worries that sun will melt the surface snow quickly today, adding more liquid to the snowpack.

The avalanche danger in the Bridger Mountains is considerable on all slopes but could move to high if slopes get sunshine, according to the GNFAC report.

The GNFAC adds these additional thoughts on wet avalanches:

1. Skier compaction doesn't matter. These avalanches ripped out some of the highest skier compacted areas on the mountain.

2. We do not fully understand wet slab avalanches. Their timing in finicky and it's difficult to measure a wet snowpack's instability. We have a high level of uncertainty in an arena with very high consequences. Therefore, we're conservative in our decision-making.

3. Wet slab avalanches are problematic this year because of the depth hoar. Even when this layer is moist (moist=you can make a snowball), these will fracture wide.

4. Small, inconsequential looking point release avalanches can trigger big slabs.

Photos courtesy of Rob Wales

Click below to see avalanche video from the GNFAC

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