Recent heavy snowfall has pushed Western Montana's avalanche alert level to stage three, which is labeled as "considerable."

The director of the Western Montana Avalanche Center, Steve Karkanen, says the new stage indicates that "human caused avalanches are very possible" right now.

Certain areas are of much greater risk of avalanche than others, specifically areas at an altitude greater than 5,000 feet or at a slope that is greater than 35 degrees.

"The thing that is important for people to remember is that most avalanches happen either during or immediately after a snowstorm," Karkanen said. "Those are natural avalanches, but most human caused avalanches happen within the first 48 hours of a big snow like the one we just had."

Avalanche danger this year has been lower than most early winters. For many weeks before the snowfall on Jan. 28, the avalanche alert level was kept at stage one.

Karkanen says that the avalanche warning may be upgraded even further based on snowfall and conditions during the next 24 hours.

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