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Snow On The Mountains Comes With Heightened Avalanche Risk

Two cross-country skiers from the Seattle area died and two others were injured Tuesday in an avalanche in the southern Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon, according to the Baker County sheriff.

The skiers were part of an eight-member group on a guided tour when the avalanche hit. After a dry period, the Northwest is seeing heavy snow, which has increased the avalanche danger across the region.

Forecasters in Idaho's Sun Valley say they're receiving reports of dozens of small avalanches in the area. Just in the last few days, backcountry skiers and snowboarders have submitted photos that show slopes in the Sawtooths missing the top layer of snow after a slide.

In Oregon last weekend, an avalanche reportedly carried one skier 100 yards down a bowl on Tumalo Mountain near Bend.

Kevin Grove of the Central Oregon Avalanche Association says on the one hand, it's great to finally get some decent snow in this below-average season. But on the other hand, he said, “Tremendous amounts of snow in a short period of time often lead to increased stress on the snow pack. We had two to three feet over the course of two to three days. … So there's a lot of snow moving around out in the mountains right now.”

Grove says a rise in temperatures means there's a dense, heavy layer sitting on top of a less stable base.

The Northwest Avalanche Center in Seattle has put Mount Hood, the Olympic Mountains, and all of Washington's Cascades at “high” avalanche danger.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.