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After deadly Mount Baker snow season, here’s where avalanche danger is high

How avalanches happen

Skiers and snowboarders experience some harrowing -- and sometimes deadly -- moments when avalanches happen. Here's a look at what triggers a mass of snow and ice to come tumbling down the mountain.
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Skiers and snowboarders experience some harrowing -- and sometimes deadly -- moments when avalanches happen. Here's a look at what triggers a mass of snow and ice to come tumbling down the mountain.

Avalanche danger is high across most of the North Cascades as a series of snow-laden winter storms sweep the North Cascades.

“Very dangerous avalanche conditions,” the Northwest Avalanche Center said Wednesday in its first warning of the season. “Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.”

“We have received significant snowfall, strong winds, and have a weak snowpack,” the website said. “This is a recipe for avalanches. It is not the time to travel in areas where avalanches can start, nor linger where they can run or stop.”

Some 40 inches of snow has fallen since Sunday at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, officials said at the website.

Ski area staff conduct avalanche controls within ski area boundaries.

According to reports archived at the Northwest Avalanche center, avalanches killed seven people in Washington state during the 2017-2018 season — including a snowmobiler at Park Butte in the Mount Baker National Recreation Area.

avalanche map.JPG
Red shading indicates high avalanche danger and orange indicates considerable danger in this map at the Northwest Avalanche Center website. Northwest Avalanche Center Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

In addition, two Bellingham residents died last season in snow-related incidents of unknown origin in the Mount Baker wilderness and one man died at the Mt. Baker Ski Area in a snow-related incident.

Northwest Avalanche Center is a nonprofit organization that uses meteorologists and field observers and is housed at the National Weather Service office in Seattle, according to its website.

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Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.

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