The West Central Montana Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning through Tuesday morning because of heavy snow and rain throughout west central Montana.

The Bitterroot, Rattlesnake, Mission and Swan mountain ranges are among the areas considered to have "considerable" to "high" avalanche danger. 

Danger ratings do not apply to ski areas. 

Although it may seem there has not been a lot of snow surrounding the Missoula Valley, precipitation in the form of rain has pushed measurements higher than the same time last year, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Genki Kino. 

"Since Oct. 1, we're about an inch above normal precipitation," Kino said. "So it's definitely been wetter.''

Snowpack surrounding the region is above 100 percent of normal, with the Bitterroot mountains sitting at 130 percent of normal, according to the most recent report.

Snowpack is measured by what is called snow water equivalent, which calculates the amount of water contained within the snow or the amount that will be released when the snow melts. It is the standard measurement because snow depth can vary while the amount of water contained in snow stays consistent.  

On a hotline recording, Logan King of the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation said the majority of accidents happen during or immediately after a storm. 

"Continued precipitation with the potential of up to another inch of water today are further complicating avalanche conditions," King said in the message. 

There are two types of avalanches: loose snow and slab. Loose snow, also known as slough or sluff, originates at a single point on a slope and gathers other loose snow as it descends. Slab avalanches, which are said to be more fatal, occur when a cohesive layer of snow slides down a slope. 

Since 2010, 26 people have died in Montana avalanches according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. On average, 27 people a year perish in avalanches throughout the United States. 

Although travel in and around avalanche terrain is not recommended, those who do should take proper precautions.