How Backcountry Ski Companies Deal With Avalanche Threats In Idaho

Dec 16, 2016

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.

“We went from very little snow to having all kinds of snow," says Lundi. "So the warning is due to all this rapid snowfall overloading a weak layer near the base of the snowpack so pretty large avalanches are likely, now given the warning.”

Lundi’s company leads people on backcountry skiing trips, and he is a trained avalanche specialist.  Every morning, he and his instructors go over the day’s avalanche information, which is monitored by the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. Lundi says they weigh the risks each day, and go through a rigorous decision-making process to determine if they’ll go in the backcountry.

“So with an avalanche warning out and the danger as high as it is, it pretty much means staying out of avalanche terrain all together. So avoiding slopes steeper than 30 degrees, not being under steeper slopes.”

He says the company gets clients of all skill levels, which is a factor in deciding where and when to go in deep powder.
Lundi says they’ve never had an accident, but he takes the risk seriously. Just last weekend, a skier from Ketchum died in an avalanche in Montana’s backcountry.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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