Free avalanche training in Cooke City
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: November 24, 2017

Montana State Parks ( in partnership with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) will offer free avalanche safety training every Friday and Saturday for snowmobilers in Cooke City, MT beginning November 24, 2017 through March 10, 2018.

Every Friday and Saturday throughout the season, GNFAC instructors will present lecture and field instruction classes to teach snowmobilers the fundamentals of avalanche safety before they ride in the backcountry.

“Avalanche education saves lives,” said Doug Chabot, Director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. “Cooke City has more snowmobiler avalanche fatalities than any other piece of real estate in the country. Our goal is to educate riders on current avalanche conditions and train them in avalanche rescue, so they are prepared when an avalanche happens.”

The Friday evening lectures cover current avalanche conditions, safe riding techniques, essential gear, avalanche awareness and identification of avalanche terrain. The lectures are held from 6:00pm to 7:30pm at the Cooke City Chamber of Commerce building located at 206 W. Main St, Cooke City, MT.

The Saturday field training offers snowmobilers the opportunity to gain experience in avalanche rescue techniques in the field. Instructors will set up rescue scenarios for riders to practice using their avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe.

“If you are buried in a slide you have an 80% chance of surviving if you are dug up in 10 minutes,” said Chabot. “That falls to below 40% at 12 minutes and 20% survival in 30 minutes. The only way to get dug up quickly is to have a trained partner.”

Avalanche rescue practice is available from 10:00am to 2:00pm and will be located at a sled-accessible location on the Lulu Pass Road. The exact location will be announced during the Friday evening lecture. Attendance of both Friday and Saturday classes is recommended, but not required.

“We’re very happy with the participation and overall success of the program last season, and we expect to see more growth this year,” said Seth McArthur, Montana State Parks Snowmobile Program Manager. “We want to see everyone ride smart and stay safe.”

This season is the second year the free avalanche safety training will be offered in Cooke City. During the program’s inaugural season in 2016/17, 388 students received training, and no snowmobile-triggered avalanches were recorded in the Cooke City area.

Cooke City Avalanche Training is funded by the GNFAC and the Upper Yellowstone Snowmobile Club through the Montana State Parks Snowmobile Grant Program. While the classes are geared towards snowmobilers, skiers and other backcountry recreationist are welcome to attend.

For more information about GNFAC Cooke City Avalanche Training Classes visit:

Or contact the GNFAC at (406) 587-6984 or

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