Backcountry Avalanche Safety

Over the next few weeks I will blog about how to get the most out of Avalanche Forecasts, your primary source of information whether skiing, boarding, snowshoeing, or scrambling and climbing in avalanche terrain. The blogs will cover topics such as the Avalanche Danger Scale, interpreting Avalanche Forecasts, and the use of the Avaluator — a planning tool that relates danger levels to terrain. I will define and enlarge on some of the terms used by professional forecasters.

Much of what I write will be excerpted from Backcountry Avalanche Safety (the new edition of Avalanche Safety for Skiers and Climbers).

Advisory, Bulletin, Forecast, Report?
The terms Advisory, Bulletin, Forecast and Report are used interchangeably within North America. Kananaskis Country uses Report, Canadian national parks use Bulletin, most of the agencies in the USA use Advisory. The Canadian Avalanche Association uses Forecast, except for areas where they have little data, when they use Report. They use Advisory for basic danger information and travel advice for the media.

Forecasts are available in every major area where people head out into avalanche terrain. You can access them through www.avalanche.ca for Canada, www.avalanche.org for the US and www.avalanches.org (avalanches with an “s”) for links to Europe’s alpine nations. There are links to local avalanche reports on this blog under Trail Conditions.

As well as being available on the Web, many centres are making their forecasts available by phone, email, instant messaging, podcasts and RSS feeds. There is even an iPhone app, AvalancheUtah, that gives access to the latest advisories from the Utah Avalanche Center.

My next blog will explain Persistent Weak Layers, an important factor in K-Country avalanches.

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