This is the most important phase in evaluating avalanche hazard. By gathering avalanche information and updates on conditions throughout the winter, you will be better equipped to make the right decisions on any excursion – as well as having an indication of what’s happening beneath the snow’s surface.

Attention! Advice  

Poor visibility?You will not be able to make route choice observations.

Consider large scale, safer terrain features for travel. Accurate navigation will be necessary to avoid potential unstable slopes.


Avalanche activity?Seeing avalanche activity indicates an unstable snowpack.

Note the aspect where the avalanche took place and avoid slopes of similar aspect.


Windy?Snow moving around at your feet or on ridges etc indicates unstable snow is accumulating.

Snowpack instabilities should be expected - note aspects where new snow is accumulating and select an alternative.


Snowpack cracks underfoot?Small or large surface cracks, and whoomping sounds are clear signs of instability.

Weaknesses are present in the snowpack, as well as windslab - note aspect and select alternative. Monitor how the snowpack behaves underfoot throughout the day. Think ahead: if this is what you find here, what does it mean for the rest of your journey?


Cold or Warm?Low temperatures over a few days (e.g. freezing levels at 900m and below produces and maintains instabilities in the snowpack, while warm tempertures and rain at summit levels produce rapid instabilities in the snowpack).

Remember info from avalanche report but use your senses too - look and feel constantly. Instabilities will persist in the snowpack when it is cold. Check for cracking underfoot throughout the day and during your journey - note aspects. If it is warm, consider cornice collapse triggering avalanche from above.


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Poor visibility?Can you navigate well?

Poor visibility requires requires good navigation ability to avoid avalanche hazard. If you are not confident, select alternative objective in safe terrain.


Equipment and ClothingDo you have the right clothing and equipment, and know how to use it?

Check to see you have everything you need before starting out. If you are wearing transceivers, make sure that they are turned on and check your partner’s too. Carry a probe and shovel.


Are the conditions different to what you expected?Are you (and party) coping well?

Monitor your progress if the snow is deep and the winter conditions are severe. If terrain is remote, steep and complex, good mountain skills and fitness will be vital. If you are unsure, consider an alternative plan.


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Unstable slopes?Can you see that your proposed journey crosses identified unstable slopes or are you are uncertain?

Consider alternative routes and safer terrain. Be aware of collapsing cornices and/or people above you triggering an avalanche.


What is happening around you?Snow distribution continually changes, especially during windy days.

Always look at the landscape around you and observe where snow is lying or where unstable slopes could be. Use this information throughout the day to help you choose safer routes to travel.


Complex terrain?This will require good navigation and consideration of avalanche hazard especially in poor visibility.

Good route finding is essential for avoiding unstable slopes and the threat of being carried into confined places by avalanches. Carefully read avalanche reports and relate this information to maps and guide books to identify potentially hazardous places.


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