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This page covers some basic information about avalanches but does NOT replace the need for training for those who plan to spend time in the mountains in winter conditions.
That training will NOT, itself, protect you - indeed it may be that those with some training but relatively little experience are at the greatest risk - but the APPLICATION of the training may do.

Avalanches kill at least 150 people worldwide per annum.
Avalanches are more common on the shallower slopes used by walkers than on the steep slopes populated by climbers; everyyone travelling in the mountains in winter conditions is at risk of avalanches.

physical factors increasing the risk of avalanches

1) slope between 30 and 45 degrees (though anywhere between 20 and 60 degrees can avalanche)
2) snowfall in previous 24 hours
3) wind sufficient to deposit snow onto lee slopes
4) lack of bonding betwween layers (eg new snow and old snow)
5) thaw

human factors increasing the risk of being avalanched

1) members of group aged 20-30
2) more men in group
3) no formal guide, but informal "leader"
4) fewer risk averse group members - often associated with more previous experience
5) group pressure & group dynamics - especially a reluctance to voice safety concerns: people often accept risks when part of a group they would not if alone
6) over-confidence
7) meeting others (i.e. not part of "own" group) in the same area/evidence of recent "use" of the area (e.g. tracks) - this seems to apply most when the group members have some prior training

decision making in avalanche terrain

Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain from AIARE Avalanche Education on Vimeo.


A cornice is a bank of snow projecting over the edge of the ground (usually on the lee side).
Cornices are a hazard as they may collpase spontaneously, with the risk of causing an avalanche, or when walked upon (taking the walker with them down the slope).
The fracture line of the cornice may be some way from the edge of the cliff or ridge - walkers must keep well away from the edge.



SportScotland Avalanche Information Service

Avalanche awareness quiz
Avalanch safety (MCofS)
Avalanche tips (SAIS)
Avalanche awareness (BMC)
Account of being avalanched
Avalanche rescue(Mammut web site)
Hazards and safety in the wilderness
Trip planning form
Factors leading to avalanche "accidents"
Factors associated with being avalanched
Human factors in avalanche accidents
AIARE communication checklist
Companion rescue
On line avalanche training course (this is NOT intended to replace hands on face to face training)

recommended book

A chance in a million

specific sports/activities

Skiing/Snowsports injuries: http://www.ski-injury.com

Northumberland snow