How to prepare for an avalanche

Avalanches happen quick and are extremely dangerous. Anyone who is taking part in winter activities is at risk of being caught in an avalanche.

Video Transcript

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- Avalanches happen quick and are extremely dangerous. Anyone who was taking part in winter activities is at risk of being caught in an avalanche.

NIKKI CHAMPION: So an avalanche simply is snow sliding down a slope. When a stronger slab of snow sits on top of a weaker layer of snow on some sort of bed surface that can slide, that can be within the snow pack or the ground, on a slope steeper than 30 degrees.

- While avalanches do occur naturally, most are triggered by people. Avalanches happen as early as November and can go through June in some areas. January and February are high risk times, after new snow falls on top of older, weak snow. Before you head out to the backcountry, make sure you have some avalanche training.

NIKKI CHAMPION: You want to make sure that you're carrying a beacon or a transceiver, which both transmits and receives a signal at all times. A shovel and a probe. You want to make sure that you have a partner, so you have somebody who can use that equipment.

- Champion says that there are important red flags to watch out for.

NIKKI CHAMPION: The first one being recent avalanches. That's an obvious red flag. If you're seeing recent avalanches in the backcountry, obviously it's sensitive. The second is like cracking or collapsing. So when you're walking, you can feel the snow pack actually settling under your feet, and that's that weak layer collapsing. If you're on a steeper slope, that could have been an avalanche.

- Quick rising temperatures trigger avalanches because they make the snow layers weaker. Recent snowfall or rainfall is another red flag.

NIKKI CHAMPION: And the final is high winds. So a lot of windy conditions going on, wind transfer, you can see snow being moved and forming into wind drifts while you're in the field.

- Monitor the avalanche forecasts. Avalanche centers across the country update the danger rating daily. For more safety preparedness tips and tools, visit accuweather.com/ready.