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The Avalanche Danger Levels – an overview

Avalanche danger levels

Description of the different Avalanche Levels

How much more does it take to release an avalanche at level 2 instead of at level 3?

This is one of more questions I will try to answer over the next couple of blog posts about avalanche danger levels.

So if you are into off-piste skiing, and I guess since you’re reading this far, reading the avalanche bulletin, or at least know what lies behind the avalanche levels, given out that particular day and in that particular region/area - is a must

In this post you can read what the different levels means.

In future posts about this topic, I will get more in detail with the individual levels, about what in particular to be aware of and where to ski or not.

Danger Level

5 – Very High

4 – High

3 – Considerable

2 – Moderate

1 – Low

Snowpack Stability

Level 5 – The snowpack is poorly bonded and largely unstable in general.

Level 4 – The snowpack is poorly bonded on most steep slopes*.

Level 3 – The snowpack is moderately to poorly bonded on many steep slopes*.

Level 2 – The snowpack is only moderately well bonded on some steep slopes*, otherwise well bonded in general.

Level 1 – The snowpack is well bonded and stable in general.

Avalanche Triggering Probability

Level 5 – Numerous large-sized and often very large-sized natural avalanches can be expected, even in moderately steep terrain.

Level 4 – Triggering is likely even from low additional loads** on many steep slopes. In some cases, numerous medium-sized and often large-sized natural avalanches can be expected.

Level 3 – Triggering is possible, even from low additional loads** particularly on the indicated steep slopes. In some cases medium-sized, in isolated cases large-sized natural avalanches are possible.

Level 2 – Triggering is possible primarily from high additional loads**, particularly on the indicated steep slopes. Large-sized natural avalanches are unlikely.

Level 1 – Triggering is generally possible only from high additional loads** in isolated areas of very steep, extreme terrain. Only sluffs and small-sized natural avalanches are possible.

  • * The avalanche-prone locations are described in greater detail in the avalanche bulletin (altitude, slope aspect, type of terrain)
    • moderately steep terrain: slopes shallower than 30 degrees
    • steep slope: slopes steeper than 30 degrees
    • very steep, extreme terrain: adverse slope angle (more than 40 degrees), terrain profile, proximity to ridge, smoothness of underlying ground surface
    • ** additional loads:
      • low: individual skier / snowboarder, riding softly, not falling; snow shoer; group with good spacing (minimum 10m) keeping distances
      • high: two or more skiers / snowboarders etc. without good spacing (or without intervals); snow machine; explosives; single hiker/climber

Source: http://www.avalanches.org/basics/degree-of-hazard/

Stay tuned for the next post about avalanche danger levels, where I will talk more about the individual levels.

Until then, leave a comment and tell us what your experiences has been regarding avalanche levels and where you have been skiing under different circumstances.

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