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Snow On The Mountains Comes With Heightened Avalanche Risk

Kevin Grove
A skier is nearly caught in an avalanche in central Oregon.

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 skiers were part of an eight-member group on a guided tour when the avalanche hit. One of the skiers who was killed was from Seattle, the other from Bellingham.

Forecasters in Idaho's Sun Valley say they're receiving reports of dozens of small avalanches in the area. Just in the last few days, backcountry skiers and snowboarders have submitted photos that show slopes in the Sawtooths missing the top layer of snow after a slide.

In Oregon last weekend, an avalanche reportedly carried one skier 100 yards down a bowl on Tumalo Mountain near Bend.

Kevin Grove of the Central Oregon Avalanche Association says on the one hand, it's great to finally get some decent snow in this below-average season. But, he says, “Tremendous amounts of snow in a short period of time often lead to increased stress on the snow pack. We had two to three feet over the course of two to three days. … So there's a lot of snow moving around out in the mountains right now.”

Grove says a rise in temperatures means there's a dense, heavy layer sitting on top of a less stable base.

The Northwest Avalanche Center in Seattle has put Mount Hood, the Olympic Mountains, and all of Washington's Cascades at “high” avalanche danger.