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BIG SKY — Gallatin National Forest officials are warning backcountry enthusiasts to take extra care after three snowmobilers escaped injury in a weekend avalanche near Big Sky.

Forest forecaster Alex Marienthal said in a Sunday advisory that the snowmobilers were caught Saturday in a 1,500-foot-wide, 4-to-6-foot-deep slide on Buck Ridge.

Marienthal says similar avalanches have broken naturally on sugary and weak layers hidden deep inside snowpack in recent days.

More can be expected. Backcountry visitors are urged to avoid slopes that are wind-loaded with snow and to avoid steep slopes that may hide persistent weak layers of snow.

Two snowmobilers were killed in a Jan. 1 avalanche near Lake Dinah, northwest of Seeley Lake. The West Central Montana Avalanche Center had issued an avalanche warning for the area after more than a foot of heavy, wet snow had fallen overnight.

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