You can never learn enough about avalanche safety. There are courses you can take up and you need to be able to learn avalanche terrains while planning a ski or snowshoe trip. However, I will give you some tips that you might find useful.

Find Your Route by Reading Avalanche Terrain Rightly

Going skiing on a snow-covered mountain has its risks and dangers and finding the correct route often seems difficult. However, route-finding using your observation and quick wits on an avalanche terrain greatly helps minimise these risks.

  • Identifying the direction which the slope faces is one of the most basic and important things to keep in mind. The pace of wind also affects your sporting activities, so you should make sure you do not get on North and East facing slopes.
  • The terrain where there is a higher risk of getting caught in an avalanche is considered to be a terrain trap. Usually, trees, cliffs, rocks and flat transitions make up for the potential terrain traps as they have deep burials around them.
  • Keep an eye out for common trigger points like a steepening mid-slope, a breakover, shallow areas filled with snow, or snow deposited with the wind. These are usually spottable if you observe the area around it properly.
  • While going upwards, there are times you need to make critical decisions. The decision is usually about taking the ridge or the gully while heading up. Here, gullies tend to be potential terrain traps so ridges are the better choice.
  • Make sure you check the angle of the slope you are climbing or skiing on to ensure your safety. Slopes with an angle less than or about 30 degrees are less risky. There is a tool called the inclinometer that can help you judge how steep a slope is.

Spot Danger before it Spots You

While observing the area, make sure you remember to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I familiar with the ‘Avalanche Advisory’ for this area?
  • Has there been any wind-blown snow recently which might mask the route?
  • How steep is the slope? Is it steep enough to minimise the risk of an avalanche?
  • How has the weather and precipitation been like in the last 24 to 48 hours?
  • How stable or unstable the snow is?

You need to make sure if there is any increase in temperature that can destabilise the snow for your descent or ascent.

Important Note: This is only a guide to help you find the route and talks about the basics of avalanche reading. You would have to take a proper course or learn about avalanche terrain safety before you embark on your adventures for the winters.

Snow sports can be fun-filled and are a great way for the family to bond. You have the responsibility of the safety and protection of your family and yourself. You need to make sure that you take enough precaution and carry the right gear with you while travelling. The snow-covered back-country areas provide you a great place to experience the beauty and the thrill of snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, etc.