Bitterroot National Forest officials are advising winter recreationists and others traveling into the woods to use extreme caution, especially while driving on Forest Service roads. Many roads on the forest are not plowed during winter months and vehicles can easily get stuck in the deep snow. Some roads and forest trails at lower elevations are also experiencing excessive snowmelt during the day and the resulting runoff freezes at night, creating sheets of ice that are dangerous to negotiate.
Anyone heading into the backcountry should plan ahead and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Temperatures and conditions are often much different in town than they are in the forest and officials stress you should not travel into the backcountry without proper winter gear & supplies. Items you should carry in a vehicle emergency travel kit include:
ü Flares/reflectors to signal for help and warn other motorists
ü Sturdy scraper/snow shovel/brush to clear snow
ü First aid kit and essential medications
ü Tire chains, tow strap, and jumper cables
ü Water and non-perishable, high energy food
ü Kitty litter or sand for traction
ü Survival blanket or sleeping bag, and extra clothing (coat, hat, mittens, etc.)
ü Candles, flashlight and extra batteries
ü NOAA Weather Radio & local maps
It’s also a good idea to keep your gas tank full during the winter so if you do become stranded you will have enough fuel to run your vehicle and stay warm. Officials want to remind the public that many areas on the forest do not have cell phone service or coverage. Backcountry enthusiasts heading to higher elevations in search of deep snow and steep terrain also need to be prepared for avalanche dangers.
For the latest information on snow/road conditions on the forest contact your local Ranger District. For backcountry weather conditions and avalanche warnings visit www.missoulaavalanche.org. For current road and winter weather driving conditions across Montana dial 511, or visit www.mdt.mt.gov.