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Avalanche Safety

Avalanche Safety

Avalanches are very real and dangerous winter hazards. Education and training are critical, so everyone in your group should have a good knowledge of avalanche safety. A list of courses can be found here.

The essentials about avalanches:

  • Most avalanches occur during or immediately after a snowstorm, heavy wind, or rain. However, unstable snow conditions can persist for several days after a storm. Steep slopes (25-50 degrees) and open snowfields with unstable deep snow hold a high risk of avalanche.
  • Remember that avalanche danger rating levels are only general guidelines. Most avalanche accidents are caused by slab avalanches which are often triggered by the a hiker or a member of the hiker's party, so you should know how to evaluate terrain.
  • Even small avalanches are dangerous.
  • Check local avalanche conditions before you go. For Mount Washington, this can be done here.
  • Never travel alone.
  • Carry and know how to use avalanche rescue beacons, probes and shovels when your party is in avalanche terrain. You must be able to conduct a self-rescue if someone is buried, as time is critical. If you must go for help, it is generally considered too late.
  • When in doubt, heed the warnings–-change of plans may be necessary.

The Avalanche Danger Scale

  • Low (green): Natural avalanches unlikely. Human trigger avalanches unlikely. Travel is generally safe. Normal caution advised.
  • Moderate (yellow): Natural avalanches unlikely. Human triggered avalanches possible. Use caution in steeper terrain on certain aspects.
  • Considerable (orange): Natural avalanches possible. Human triggered avalanches probable. Be increasingly cautious in steeper terrain.
  • High (red): Natural and human triggered avalanches likely. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.
  • Extreme (red with black border): Widespread natural or human triggered avalanches certain. Avoid travel in avalanche terrain. Confine travel to low angle terrain well away from avalanche path run-outs.

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