Hello and welcome to another episode of Weather Matters with Matthews. Right now, heavy snowfall coupled with many Winter Weather Advisories are happening out west in the Rockies and other mountainous regions. With piling snowfall and strong winds, avalanches are now likely to happen in the high mountains this time of the year. Planning on traveling to that particular climate? Then be sure to know about avalanche warnings and safety if you intend to go hiking.

Yes, avalanches can happen, but they can also be avoided. When hiking, be on the lookout for any of these potential warning signs:

  • Evidence of previous slides
  • Cracks forming in the snow around you
  • Strong winds and/or blowing snow
  • Heavy snowfall or rain in the last 24 hours
  • Significant warming, or rapidly increasing temperatures

Increasing temperatures can especially be dangerous because melting snow can lead to strong landslides and masses of snow moving downslope. If any of these warning signs are seen, either vacate the area or avoid potential avalanche terrain.

To stay safe from potential avalanches, always come prepared. Check out your local avalanche center or the National Weather Service for forecasts on current snowfall and snowpack conditions. The gear listed here can also assure visitors a safe and fun hiking experience:

  • Transceiver: transmits general location under snow
  • Probe: pinpoints exact location under snow
  • Shovel: to dig out your partner
  • Airbag Pack: increases chances of staying near the surface of an avalanche