Avalanche

John Milner / Flickr Creative Commons

The Sun Valley Resort has shut down Bald Mountain for fear of extreme avalanche danger.

While the resort has received some 50 inches of snow in just the last few days, warmer temperatures plus winds and freezing rain are making for a dangerous mix. With temperatures above 40 degrees, the situation on the mountainside is touch and go.

Once it's deemed safe, Bald Mountain will be reopened.

Tim Hagen / Flickr Creative Commons

Snow in the mountains this week has Idaho backcountry skiers both excited and on alert. The Sawtooth Avalanche Center put out an extreme avalanche warning Thursday. For Chris Lundi of Sawtooth Mountain Guides, this means he and his guides are staying away from avalanche-prone spots.

Jon Preuss / Sawtooth Avalanche Center

An avalanche in southwestern Montana killed a skier over the weekend.

Park County Sheriff Scott Hamilton says 55-year-old Christopher Peterson of Ketchum, Idaho, died. He was skiing with six other people Sunday when the slide buried him in 5 feet of snow near the base of a tree.

Hamilton says probes and an avalanche transceiver helped find Peterson and the other skiers dug him out within 15 to 20 minutes, but he couldn't be resuscitated.

Idaho Transportation Department

The people who live in Elk City are still trapped in their tiny Idaho County town, after a massive mud and tree slide wiped out the only road, Idaho Highway 14. Since Thursday, only mail and medicine has made it into town, via snowmobile. But the Idaho Transportation Department says help is coming.

The slide took out both sides of the highway and ITD hasn’t said how long it will take to clear the mountain of mud and debris ten miles west of Elk City. So Tuesday they plan to open an old Forest Service road to get people and supplies in and out.

Jon Preuss / Sawtooth Avalanche Center

This week, an avalanche on Bald Mountain injured a skier who was out of bounds at the Sun Valley ski resort. When it happened, the avalanche danger in the area was “high,” which means human-triggered avalanches were likely.

Every day, snow science experts from the Sawtooth Avalanche Center head out into the backcountry to figure out the severity of avalanche danger.

Credit Courtesy Idaho Department of Transportation

Underneath all that snow, ice, and tree debris is Idaho's Highway 21. Somewhere. This dramatic image from the Idaho Department of Transportation shows just how much work is ahead for road crews in clearing off a 12-mile section of the scenic road south of Stanley. That orange dot near the middle of the image is an ITD crew member.

avalanche
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Updated March 4, 2014 at 9:45 a.m.

A woman who was rescued about three hours after her Missoula home was destroyed by an avalanche has died.

About 100 neighbors converged Friday to help find 68-year-old Michel Colville, her husband and an 8-year-old boy after they were buried by the avalanche in a residential area of the western Montana city.

Police say Colville died Sunday night at St. Patrick Hospital. Her husband, Fred Allendorf, remains hospitalized in serious condition.

snow, avalanche, sawtooth
Mark Westerdoll / Sawtooth Avalanche Center

Winter and early spring in the West means it's avalanche season. Several avalanche warnings have recently been in effect for parts of south central Idaho. And at least 17 people have died this season, including a Bellevue, Idaho man.

Let's say you're skiing in the backcountry, looking for some powder — but instead, you trigger an avalanche.

If you have an avalanche air bag pack strapped to your back, you just yank the cord. That deploys the air bag, which keeps you close to the surface and easier to dig out, says Andy Wenberg with Backcountry Access, one of several companies making the devices. When deployed, his company's version of the air bag comes out like wings.

"The whole idea when you deploy that thing in an avalanche is you're avoiding burial death," he says.

avalanche, map
Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center

An avalanche in the Sawtooth National Forest killed one man and injured a woman Sunday afternoon at a popular snowmobile site in the Smiley Creek area north of Ketchum. The avalanche west of Galena Summit buried four snowmobilers early in the afternoon.

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office says 64-year-old George Gilbert Martin Jr. of Bellevue, Idaho died on the scene.

Sawtooth Avalanche Center director Simon Trautman says the four snowmobilers were in a meadow which they thought was safe.

As snow continues to pound the region's ski resorts, plenty of skiers  are expected to hit the slopes. But with the increased snowpack comes the risk of avalanches.

The Baker County Sheriff in eastern Oregon says two cross-country skiers died Tuesday in an avalanche in the southern Wallowa Mountains. Two others were seriously injured. 

The National Weather Service has issued an avalanche warning for central Idaho's Sun Valley region.

The Sawtooth Avalanche Center says the area got between one and a half to three feet of new snow, and that combined with strong winds have created a high avalanche danger. The warning includes the mountains around Fairfield, Galena Summit and Stanley.

AlistarHoward / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials with the National Weather Service have issued an avalanche warning for central Idaho's Sun Valley region, warning that both natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely.

The Times-News reports the warning will remain in effect until further notice for the Sawtooth, western Smoky and Soldier Mountains as well as for alpine terrain near Galena Summit.

Idaho Transportation Department officials have closed a 12-mile stretch of State Highway 21 in central Idaho due to potential avalanches.

The agency closed the road Friday morning from Grandjean Junction to Banner Summit.

Officials say it's unclear when it will reopen.

That section of road is known as Avalanche Alley because it has about 60 avalanche chutes and 90 percent of the avalanches causing problems on Idaho roads.