Where do Avalanches Happen?
While the snowpack and the weather are always changing, terrain remains constant. Knowing how to recognize avalanche terrain is a fundamental skill for staying safe in the winter backcountry.
The most obvious sign you’re entering avalanche terrain is the presence of an avalanche path. In forested areas, large avalanche paths are easy to spot because they create wide openings through the trees from the alpine towards the valley bottom.
Avalanche paths, also called slide paths, are composed of three parts. The top is called the start zone, where the avalanches begin. At the bottom is the runout zone, where avalanches lose steam and come to a stop. In between, where the slide runs, is the track. This is where the avalanche hits its greatest speed.
Dig Deeper: Overhead Hazard +
Even if you’re not actually on an avalanche slope, you may still be exposed to avalanche danger from above. Many routes involve passing under avalanche paths, particularly those that travel through steep-sided valleys. It’s always important to be aware of the terrain above you, as well as the terrain you are currently on.