The United States and Canada utilize the same five-category avalanche danger estimation scale. The tool is used by avalanche forecasters to broadcast the daily potential for avalanches in a given area. If you enter avalanche terrain, your safety depends on your ability to understand and assess conditions on the slopes you plan to climb or descend. Learning to read the avalanche danger scale is an excellent step toward backcountry preparation.

Avalanche terrain is often defined as a snow-covered slope steeper than thirty degrees, but it extends to any terrain beneath the slopes. Therefore, if a ravine toward the peak of a mountain is more than thirty degrees in steepness, the entire area below this drop is considered to be avalanche terrain.


North American Avalanche Scale

The North American Avalanche Scale consists of five ascending danger levels which provide travel advice and a means of planning your day—whether it should eliminate certain areas of a range, change mountains altogether, or stay inside. The assigned avalanche danger applies only to avalanche terrain, but designations can apply to large areas. It is therefore your job to make slope-specific assessments.

Low avalanche danger, characterized by a green check-mark, does not mean an absence of danger. Rather, it is meant to communicate that there may be loose snow on isolated features of a particular area. Moderate danger signifies the need to carefully evaluate snow and terrain with heightened caution; you should avoid areas of terrain identified in the day’s safety report. Considerable danger means you should avoid avalanche terrain if you do not have the skills or experience to move carefully through the area; human-triggered avalanches are likely. High avalanche danger signals that, regardless of your experience, you should avoid all avalanche terrain. Your safe options within the terrain become limited to non-existent.

Below, we have included an infographic provided by Avalanche.Org.




No matter what skill set you have in skiing and snowboarding, you are going to be wary about avalanches. Just because you’re an expert in riding, doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have to deal with issues associated with snowfall, and slides. It’s for that reason why you may want to pursue a few tips and tricks that even experts have trouble with in regard to safety overall. The following tips could very well help you keep safe, for years.

More Information Is Everything

The first thing that you need to remember is that you need to have up to date information. That means up to the point where you seek a chair lift. With today’s multimedia devices, you can get avalanche reports up to the minute, and you can setup notifications if need be. You should know if there’s an avalanche danger or not coming for the day, and then plan your route accordingly.

Observe Everything

When you’re on the mountain, make sure that you look around you and know everything that is going on. You should know whether or not there’s freshly packed snow, if there’s powder, if something is hollow, if you see clouds forming, if there’s wind hitting hard, or if you hear a sound of settling or more. You should also focus on rolling elements on the snow and whether or not there are slides occurring as you go through the routes you choose. The more aware you are, the more you can progress with the right focus overall.

Get The Right Gear

Before you get to the slopes make sure that you have avalanche gear with you. You can be observant, you could have a lot of different warm weather items, but you need to have specific avalanche elements to keep you safe. That includes getting a shovel, communication devices, probes, and emergency kits. Education can get you far, but you need to also have gear that can save you, including elements that are specifically made to help first responders find you if need be.

Do Not Go Alone

Unless you’re a professional snowboarder or skier, you should not go alone. These professionals are paid a great deal of money to take on risks, and they usually have someone with them filming, or watching for their safety. Even if you’re great at snow sports, make sure that you go with a group or at least a partner and make certain you both know where each other is, and has equipment that could very well save you. These are just the basic tips to consider, even if you’re an expert.

How to Do a Compression Test

Thinking about hitting the slopes this winter? Want to get past the beaten path? Many beginners dream about powdery snow, flying down mountains on skis or snowboards, and so much more. There’s a lot of different things that you can explore when you’re hitting mountain tops. If you’re extreme and you want to explore more than just the bunny slopes, then the following tips and tricks are going to help you. These are things that will help you stay safe just in case you have to face off against an avalanche, which could be deadly.

Know What These Are

The first thing that you need to do is simple, look at the weather conditions. Not just the cold weather, not just the snowfall, but avalanche condition risks. You will need to ask around, look online, get an app, and do your due diligence in regard to the mountain range that you’re going to be going towards. It’s imperative that you know how steep slopes are, and how close to ridges you may be.

Pack Appropriately

If you’re going to go backcountry, if you’re going to test the limits, you need to have an emergency kit with you. You need a shovel, a probe, a small oxygen tank, and you’ll need emergency elements that may keep you warm and safe. You will need a backpack, and get used to it being on your back, and easy to open. You could get caught up fast, so you’ll need quick reflexes to ensure that you’re out. Traveling alone is not recommended, but hey, if you’re going to traverse extremes, be prepared with emergency kit elements.

What If You’re Caught Up?

The next thing that you should know is that you may get caught up. You need to not panic. According to National Geographic, and other resources, you should focus on swimming upwards away from the bottom if possible. Swimming to the surface, and grabbing a tree or anything heavy is a good option to consider. If that’s not possible, you’ll need to rely on your emergency kit and shovel to dig yourself out.

Aside from these tips above, you should focus on electronic communication. Make sure that someone knows you’re on the mountain, and check in during runs, etc. If there’s an emergency, send out a signal and ask for help. Use your emergency kit to help yourself in the meantime, and don’t travel alone if you can avoid it.

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