Trip Planning for Northern Madison

as of 5:00 am
Jan 221″ | 5-20 W
Jan 21 5″ | 15-35 W
Jan 20 1″ | 10-29 W
9400′     1/23 at 1:00
21 ℉
W - 11 mph, Gusts 21
0 " New
8880′   01/23 at 01:00
33″ Depth
Bottom Line: Avalanches are possible to trigger where recent snow is drifted into slabs up to 1-2 feet thick. Be cautious of steep, wind-loaded slopes, especially if you see wind transporting snow today, or other signs of instability like cracking across the snow surface or fresh avalanches. Before riding steep slopes dig and do a quick stability test to look for unstable weak layers buried below the recent snow. Although unlikely, a much larger avalanche breaking on weak snow near the bottom of the snowpack could be triggered by a smaller wind slab or cornice fall.
Primary Problem: Wind-Drifted Snow

Past 5 Days

Tue Jan 18

Wed Jan 19

Thu Jan 20

Fri Jan 21

Sat Jan 22


Relevant Avalanche Activity

Northern Madison
Beehive Basin
Skier triggered cornice beehive basin
Incident details include images
Beehive Basin
Elevation: 9,300
Aspect: E
Coordinates: 45.3379, -111.3990
Caught: 0 ; Buried: 0

From email 1/9/21: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

More Avalanche Details

Relevant Photos

Displaying 1 - 40
  • A view of Sacajewea Peak from the Fairy Lake road. Evidence of winds are seen on the right shoulder of the peak. Photo: GNFAC

  • Slopes on Hardscabble Peak in the northern Bridger Range show bare slopes that got blown clean by wind. Photo: GNFAC

  • In the northern Bridger Range we dug a pit at 8700 feet on a north facing slope before skiing the chute into the basin. Our stability tests did not break and all evidence pointed to a LOW danger. Photo: GNFAC

  • Settlement rings around the base of trees near Cooke City, January 15, 2022. Photo: B. Fredlund

  • Large cornices in 2nd Yellowmule on Buck Ridge. 1/13/22. Photo: GNFAC

  • Looking up at the Fat Maid from Maid of the Mist basin. Strong winds over the last week have scoured the alpine, exposing lots of rock. Photo: GNFAC

  • Strong wind over the last week created this surface texture in the Bridger Range. Photo: T. Allen

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • Photo from Crunchy the blue heeler (@crunchy_adventures)

    From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • It was easy to crack the thin wind slabs that formed from strong wind the last 2 days. They were not propagating, but cracking indicated potential instability on wind drifts. Photo: GNFAC

  • Strong wind in the previous 2 days sculpted the snow surface into waves of sastrugi. Photo: GNFAC

  • Wind in the last 2 days gusted 45-70 mph and stripped some starting zones down to dirt in Beehive Basin. Photo: GNFAC

  • From obs (12/25/21): "Cornice failure on beehive / bear basin ridge, ~9,200 ft. West side of ridge stripped clean, east side looked pretty loaded"

  • We intentionally triggered this 6-8" deep wind slab on Saddle Peak on December 23, 2021, E aspect at 9,000'. It showed us that recently formed wind slabs were still reactive. This hard slab formed over low density new snow which made it unstable. While not large, these slides will easily push you down and can be harmful if they push you into hazardous obstacles or terrain traps. Photo: GNFAC

  • Cornices that formed mid-slope, indicating recent heavy wind-loading in the Bridger Range. Strong southwest wind between 12/18 and 12/19/21 drifted recent snow into hard, pillowy drifts. We avoided these drifts on steep slopes to give them a day or two to stabilize. Photo: GNFAC

  • These pillowy, hard drifts formed from strong southwest wind overnight between 12/18 and 12/19/21 in the Bridger Range. We saw minimal signs of instability, lke whumphing or cracking in these drifts, but avoided these features on steep slopes until they have more time to gain stability. Photo: GNFAC

  • From obs: "On the way up on the West facing ridge we found facets to the ground below 17cm with that large ice layer on top. Given the low density of the new snow sitting on top, we ascended to Bear Basin-Middle Ridge via the ridge and lower angle gully. Photo is taken at 2860m, East facing on the ridge between Beehive Basin and Middle basin. Layers in the photo are easily distinguishable in the photo. We decided not to ski into Middle Basin and descended back the way we came up. On the ridge winds were blowing East ~15mph and cornices were present. Wind loading to the East looked visible to the eye by the lumps in the snow."

    Photo: "T. Hoefler"

  • On 12/16/21 A skier in a group of three triggered and was caught in this avalanche next to The Apron at Bridger Bowl. The ski area is closed and backcountry conditions exist. Nobody was injured.

    From e-mail: "We had a group of three skiing up at the Bridger Apron today. We skied a more main slope in the field north of the slope with hidden couloir, snow was very stable and has been getting a lot of tracks. For a second run we skinned up the main slope under hidden and started our run in the trees slightly south of this slope. Not many tracks over there and not a good enough evaluation of the snowpack. We were planning on skiing a northeast facing chute through the trees that had very nice looking snow similar to what we had skiied earlier. I skiied in and had about 3 amazing turns, definitely partially due to the wind loading at this aspect. After three turns my feet were taking out from under me and I got caught in a slide keeping skis perpendicular to slope for 15-20’. This avalanche carried me rapidly and cleared the snow to the rocks below in which I was able to come to a hault and watch the rest of the sluff slide past me. After looking at the conditions after, this windy aspect seemed to have a very faceted layer about 8” down that acted as the crown. No injuries, a lost ski pole in the runout which extended down the slope maybe another 40’. The wind scoop on top and seeing these facets should have been a clear sign prior to skiing. Must be more diligent even in areas of high traffic. When dropping in to ski on first turn or so I remember hearing a possible whumpf."

  • From IG 12/12/21: @montanamountainmedicine

  • From obs: 12/12/21: "Heavy wind loading from gusty SW winds and recent snowfall. Made for some touchy conditions. This was at 9100’ between Sage and Sunlight basins." Photo: JR Mooney

  • From obs: 12/12/21: "Shooting cracks and whoomphing in wind loaded areas. An approximately 15x30ft wind slab cracked along the base of a rock band and settled at the base of P2 on high fidelity. Was triggered while traversing along the rock band to gain the second pitch, 1-2 inches of facets on the ground. Wind slab of 6-36in in the gullies." Photo: M. Hearley

  • In the Bridger Range on December 10, 2021 2-3" of low density new snow was drifted into small soft slabs that were easy to trigger. Photo: GNFAC

  • This pit was dug in Hyalite Canyon near Twin Falls. It showed 2 mm facets (sugar snow) underlying the snowpack. This layer did not break in stability tests, but anticipate these grains will get weaker with time. Photo: GNFAC

  • For the Bozeman Ice Fest we investigated the Silken Falls and Avalanche Gulch gulleys. They were wind-loaded and had weak snow mid-pack that was unreactive. Avalanches in these gulleys would be deadly, so be extra vigilant in your assessment before crossing. Photo: GNFAC

  • For the Bozeman Ice Fest we investigated the Silken Falls and Avalanche Gulch gulleys. They were wind-loaded and had weak snow mid-pack that was unreactive. Avalanches in these gulleys would be deadly, so be extra vigilant in your assessment before crossing. Photo: GNFAC

  • We found 80 cm (2+ feet) of snow on a NE facing slope at 8,000 feet outside Bridger Bowl's Boundaries. The snow was supportable with a weak layer at the blue card. Faceted, weak, sugary snow is the layer of concern, but it was not that bad...yet. We'll be watching to see if it gets weaker. Photo: GNFAC

  • Monday night's new snow formed wind slabs from the strong wind on Tuesday. We are finding these throughout southwest Montana. Photo: D. Britt

  • New snow was blown into thick drifts that can be triggered by skiers or riders. Cracking like this is a sign that drifts are unstable and could slide on steeper slopes. Photo: GNFAC

  • This post and picture was on the FB ice climbers page. This is from Comet Alley, a steep gully off the East Fork Road:

    Today we found that this gully has some significant loading. We triggered a few wind slab slides on the approach. We managed to get a quick lap on the route and got out before it got loaded more. TBH with more unconsolidated snow I’d reconsider going there.

  • From email (12/5/21) : "Small avalanche triggered while approaching ice climb in East fork of Hyalite basin. 

    Another D1 natural avalanche was observed later in the day similar aspect/elevation

    NE @7600’

    Photo: A. Schoening

  • Skiers in Beehive Basin observed pin wheels on a south-facing slope that are consistent with this weekend's warm temperatures. Unusual for late November in Montana! Photo: Dorje

  • Skiers in Beehive Basin observed a small slab avalanche and pin wheels on a south-facing slope. Photo: Dorje 

  • Skiers on Mount Blackmore observed cracking within the freshly wind-loaded snow on a southeast-facing slope just below the ridge (11/24/21). Photo: J Schack

  • This powder cloud from a large avalanche was seen on Black Mountain, up Pine Creek outside Livingston. Located outside our advisory area it is a sign of unstable snow, likely from wind-loading, that can be found throughout southwest Montana. Photo: Anon

  • Skiers found a shallow snowpack and very windy conditions today. Snow was moving and loading slopes. Photo: H. Darby

  • From an obsevation: Skied up towards Arrowhead Bowl from Fairy Lake road. Snowpack is still very thin in the trees as you ascend towards the ridge. Strong westerly winds and exposed rocks deterred us from skiing the bowl itself. Down low we found variable conditions ranging from a few cm of graupel to a few cm of windboard and ice in places. We dug a pit at 8140 feet, 143º SE. The snowpack is 55 cm deep with a very distinct knife hard crust layer from 0-20cm above the ground, we were thinking that could be due to a rain on snow event that fell on top of the October snow. There is also a distinct knife crust 40 cm above the ground with new snow/wind blown snow on top of that. Weather today was mostly clear with a few scattered clouds and consistent winds, with very strong gusts from the west. Photo: H. Darby

  • A natural avalanche on Saddle Peak on 11/10/21. Strong winds drifted recent snow into thick slabs near the ridge. This slide was probably one of those wind slabs breaking and/or being triggered by a cornice fall. Photo: P. Hinz

  • From e-mail 11/7/21: "...Once in airplane bowl we saw multiple large slides that ran last night, syn-storm. Most of which came down from the East face of Sac. A few 200-300’ wide and running the length of the bowl.,,, attached is a grainy cell phone pic of the slides in Airplane Bowl." -Anonymous.


8800' Camera, Lone Peak view

Yellowstone Club, Timberline Chair

Snowpit Profiles- Northern Madison


Select a snowpit on the map to view the profile image

Weather Forecast Northern Madison

Extended Forecast for

5 Miles NNW Big Sky MT

  • Overnight

    Overnight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 17. West northwest wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.

    Partly Cloudy

    Low: 17 °F

  • Sunday

    Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 29. West wind 10 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph.

    Mostly Sunny

    High: 29 °F

  • Sunday

    Sunday Night: Increasing clouds, with a low around 16. West wind around 14 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.


    Low: 16 °F

  • Monday

    Monday: A 40 percent chance of snow after 11am.  Mostly cloudy, with a high near 20. West southwest wind 11 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.  New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

    Chance Snow

    High: 20 °F

  • Monday

    Monday Night: A 40 percent chance of snow, mainly before 11pm.  Mostly cloudy, with a low around 9. West wind 10 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph.  New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

    Chance Snow

    Low: 9 °F

  • Tuesday

    Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 20. Southwest wind 9 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.

    Mostly Sunny

    High: 20 °F

  • Tuesday

    Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 10. South southwest wind 11 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph.

    Partly Cloudy

    Low: 10 °F

  • Wednesday

    Wednesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 20. South southwest wind around 14 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

    Partly Sunny

    High: 20 °F

  • Wednesday

    Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 9.

    Partly Cloudy

    Low: 9 °F

The Last Word

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle ran a story on a-day-in-the-life of an avalanche forecaster that highlighted Dave Zinn.

  <<  This is the most recent forecast.