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.

You will need

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

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.

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.