Posted: Oct 13, 2013 4:09 PM by Beth Saboe - MTN News
Updated: Oct 14, 2013 6:42 AM
Snow is in the forecast, but don't expect to get updated information on avalanche conditions while the government shutdown continues and affects this backcountry forecasting furlough.
Jay Pipe with Friends of GNF Avalanche Center said, "The Avalanche Center isn't deemed essential personnel so they're furloughed right now. But we are one storm away from them becoming essential personnel, but it's not uncommon for us to get our first avalanche injuries in October."
For more than 20 years, the Avalanche Center has provided advisories and information on back-country conditions in Southwest Montana.
"The Avalanche Center saves lives," Pipe said. "The educational services they provide, the services they provide - savs lives (sic.) There's no doubt about it."
Saving lives not only with their daily avalanche advisories but also with a widespread educational program and those classes are most often free, thanks to a non-profit called Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, which works to teach people about avalanche danger.
"Last year our education programs reached 4,000 people," Pipe said. "We had 4,000 people attend classes around Southwestern Montana."
Even though the forecasters are furloughed, classes remain on schedule. And the friends of the avalanche center has a long history of stepping in to help where the government can't.
"Forest Service budgets have been cut consistently and the mission of the Friends is to support avalanche awareness and education, so we pick up the slack," Pipe said.
That slack includes buying tools like weather stations so the guys in the field can offer better information on backcountry conditions.
And with snow in the forecast, many are hoping Congress gets the government re-open for business.
"We're knocking on the door of winter," Pipe said.
The Friends of the Avalanche Center's biggest fundraiser will happen whether the government re-opens or not.
Powder Blast is set for October 25th at the Emerson Cultural Center in Bozeman.
For more information on Friends of the Avalanche Center, visit their Facebook page.
Once the government shutdown allows the Avalanche Center to re-open, you can get regular updates on their website.