Two Snowmobilers Fatally Buried in Montana Avalanche
January 2nd, 2020

Two Snowmobilers Fatally Buried in Montana Avalanche

Authorities in Montana are reporting the first snowmobiler avalanche fatalities of the season.

It is confirmed that two snowmobilers have died in an avalanche in the Lake Dinah area near Seeley Lake, Montana on New Year’s Day. A group of three riders was involved in the avalanche, two of whom were buried. Emergency services received a call at 2:15 p.m. from the third member, reporting the slide. The two victims were “unaccounted for” after the slide, according to the Missoula County Sherriff’s Office (MCSO).

“Seeley-Swan SAR, Missoula County SAR and their SAR K9’s, along with MESI and Seeley Fire are staging an operation to search for the lost individuals,” posted MCSO shortly after receiving the call.

Search and Rescue (SAR) crews were able to locate the buried victims later the same day. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene, and SAR teams were able to extricate the victims from the backcountry several hours later. The third rider was also brought out by SAR and did not require medical assistance.

The names of the victims have not yet been released.


Avalanche Hazard

The avalanche danger at the time was High. Earlier in the day, the West Central Montana Avalanche Center had posted the following avalanche advisory:

“An avalanche warning has been issued for the southern Mission, southern Swan, Rattlesnake, and southern and central Bitterroot mountains.The avalanche danger for the west central Montana backcountry is HIGH. Human triggered avalanches are certain. The avalanche hazard is increasing with continued snowfall. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Avalanches may run long distances and avoid runout zones.”

The advisory goes on to report the accumulation of “[Twelve inches] of heavy snow last night, adding considerable stress to a weak snowpack. 1-3″ more SWE is expected by Thursday night, more than doubling the extra weight that has already been added to the snowpack. Strong westerly winds with extreme gusts are accompanying it, rapidly increasing the load on leeward slopes. Temperatures will increase Wednesday with rain possible above 6000 feet drastically increasing thaw instabilities.

It is still unknown at this time if the riders were equipped with avalanche rescue gear.


Lake Dinah Area

The Lake Dinah area is a backcountry zone adjacent to Mount Henry, within the northern border of the Lolo National Forest. The lake is located 20 km (12 mi.) in a straight line northwest of Seeley Lake, and can be accessed via the Seeley Lake Drift Riders groomed trail network. It is not one of the major route destinations on the snowmobile club map. 

Seeley Lake Drift Riders Trail Map

We are saddened to report on the loss of these members of our riding community, and send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.

Stay safe out there, friends.


– MS