Tips on Identifying Avalanche-Prone Areas

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Special Stories
27 Jan 2018 8:39 PM
States across the West have been getting pounded by snow, rain, and wind lately. While the snowpack is excellent for winter recreation such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling, the backcountry can be quite dangerous if you aren't prepared. To learn much more about identifying areas at risk of avalanches, we turned to the pros. We spoke by phone with Brandon Schwartz, Lead Avalanche Forecaster for the Tahoe National Forest Sierra Avalanche Center. [playlist type="video" ids="86827,86828,86829"] We compiled a list of the best of the best comments from Mr. Schwartz that you can listen to by clicking/tapping the media above this sentence. In short, these are some of the helpful tips and informational nuggets he passed along to us.
  • Every day is different because conditions change such as snow crystals melting, sunshine appearing, and snow temperatures changing
  • Check resources such as www.avalanche.org before you head out to the backcountry because that will give you a clearer idea of what to expect
  • Train before you go. You can do this with various online avalanche courses
  • Know how to use 'companion tools' such as a shovel and probe because the person buried may only have 10-15 minutes to save
  • Avalanche potential tends to be higher after recent storms that bring a lot of snow and wind
  • To spot avalanche-prone areas look for high snow drifts, cracks in the surface of the snow, and feeling/seeing the snowpack collapse
For WeatherNation, Meteorologist Steve Glazier
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