What Is an Avalanche?
An avalanche (also called a slide) is a mass of snow moving down a slope set off by a trigger.
There are 7 types of avalanches:
- Slab Avalanche
- Loose Snow Avalanche
- Icefall Avalanche
- Cornice Fall Avalanche
- Wet Avalanche
- Glide Avalanche
- Slush Avalanche
What triggers an avalanche?
Natural triggers: weather (wind, snow, rain or sun) that stresses the snowpack to its breaking point
Human-triggers: person's weight on an already weather-stressed snowpack
WHN Expert Tip: Noise does NOT trigger avalanches. USFS National Avalanche Center
Why are they so hard to predict?
Changing weather conditions continually affect the strength of the layers within the snowpack.
The snowpack on every slope is different depending on what exposure that slope has to the wind and sun.
For more information
Learn more about avalanches and how to avoid them:
Learn more about avalanches and what precautions to take. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) archives and distributes digital and analog snow and ice data.
Forest Service National Avalanche Center
Covers avalanche basics, an interactive tour and links to other great resources.
National Avalanche Centers
Lists avalanche centers across the U.S. and Canada. Click on a city to find the website link and further information.
NOVA Online: Avalanche!
Learn about NOVA's Avalanche! TV special, the elements of an avalanche, the makings of the TV program and links to other resources.
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