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Avalanche Safety Tips

Avalanche Safety Tips

Don't venture into the backcountry without avalanche safety knowledge and equipment

InyoNF Avalanche Ensure your safety in avalanche-prone areas by increasing your knowledge and minimizing exposure to unstable conditions.(Aaron Echols/Share the Experience)

The key to avoiding avalanches is to avoid terrain where avalanches can occur. Avalanche terrain is any slope steeper than 30 degrees. It doesn’t matter if it is a big or a very small slope. It doesn’t matter if it is an open slope or one with trees. If it is steeper than 30 degrees, it can produce an avalanche.

These slopes have a similar steepness to expert ski runs (a “black diamond” rating), as well as some intermediate runs (a “blue square” rating) at ski areas. Even if you are on a less steep slope, it is considered avalanche terrain if it is connected to a steeper slope above. Avalanches have caught many people because they were underneath avalanche terrain in a run-out zone (the place where avalanche debris typically comes to rest).

In general, most avalanches occur during storms or during the 24-48 hours following one. Because avalanche conditions can change rapidly it is important to check current conditions and get avalanche danger ratings from a regional avalanche center. You can find a list of these avalanche centers at www.avalanche.org.

If you choose to enter avalanche terrain, there are many factors to consider. The best way to learn about these factors is to complete an avalanche training course. Get the Training on-line from the National Avalanche Center or visit the American Avalanche Association for a listing of avalanche training providers.

Whether you are an avalanche novice or expert, the U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center gives this advice:

  1. Get the Training. Chances are, there are opportunities near you.
  2. Get the Advisory. Be aware of avalanche conditions in your destination area.
  3. Get the Gear. Buy it and keep it on your body.
  4. Get the Picture. Recognize red flags and consequences.
  5. Get Out of Harm’s Way. Limit your exposure and practice safe travel in avalanche zones.