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How to Avoid Avalanches

You can reduce your chances of being caught in an avalanche during winter mountain hikes by keeping the following tips in mind.


  • Step 1: Avoid hiking after storm Avoid hiking immediately after a storm. Most avalanches occur at the time of or shortly after a heavy snowfall.
  • Step 2: Avoid steep slopes Avoid slopes with pitches greater than 25 degrees.
  • TIP: If you must traverse a steep slope, cross at the highest point possible, one person at a time.
  • Step 3: Stay to the windward side of ridges Stay on the windward side of gently sloping ridges. The snow is usually thinner there.
  • Step 4: Avoid treeless slopes Avoid treeless slopes and gullies. The absence of trees may reflect that previous avalanches have occurred in the area.
  • Step 5: Watch for cracks Watch for cracks or small slabs that have sheared off.
  • Step 6: Listen Listen for hollow or thumping noises as you walk.
  • Step 7: Dig snow pits Use a collapsible shovel to dig frequent snow pits. As you check the structure of the snowpack, be on the lookout for weak layers.
  • FACT: In 1970, an avalanche in Peru killed nearly 20,000 people.

You Will Need

  • Good weather
  • Gentle slopes
  • Windward ridges
  • Tree-covered terrain
  • Collapsible shovel

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