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What can I observe about avalanche risk on specific slopes?

Avalanche occurrence:
Avalanches occur naturally during or shortly after storms. Avalanches triggered by backcountry travelers can occur at any time on or near avalanche an slope.  First, obtain the advice of local experts. Check the recent weather history.

Avoid probable avalanche slopes:
Determine start zones of probable avalanche prone slopes and cross as high as possible, preferably above natural anchors.
Travel on high points and ridges, especially the windward sides. Stay to the sides of the start zone and track when ascending/descending an avalanche prone slope.
Avoid wind-loaded, lee slopes.
Favor terrain with anchors, i.e. tree-covered area, over open slopes.
Pick areas with flat, open run-outs so that debris burial depth is decreased.
Avoid areas that feed into crevasses and/or cliffs.
Travel in U-shaped valleys, avoid V-shaped valleys where an avalanche can continue up the opposite side.

Observe signs of instability: 
Recent avalanche activity on similar slopes and small avalanches under foot.
Booming, the audible collapse of snow layers.
Visible cracks shooting out from under foot.
Sloughing debris, which is evidence of avalanche activity occurring.
Sun-balling or snow-rollers, which is caused by rapid re-warming. 
Excessive snowfall, over 1” per hour for 24 hours or more.
Heavy rains that warms and destroys the snowpack.
Significant wind-loading causing leeward slopes to become overloaded.
Long, clear, cold, calm period followed by precipitation or wind-loading.
Rapid temperature rises to near or above freezing after a long, cold period.
Prolonged periods (more than 24 hours) of above freezing temperatures.
Snow temperatures remaining at or below 25 degrees F, which slows down the settlement process.
Flag trees (branches only on the downhill side, trunks bent downhill) or new growth in a mature forest.



Also read . . .
Maps of winter trails
What should I know about the new snowshoe trails?

Snowshoes keeping up with the times
What are technical snowshoes?

How do I avoid avalanches?
Tumalo Mountain a wintertime treat
A map of know avalanche areas near Bend, Oregon

Avalanche training courses - understanding avalanche risk
How about a traditional avalanche cord?

What should I know about climbing Mt. Hood?
Broken Top winter ascent

Basic Responsibilities
Ten Essentials

Warning: Traditional Mountaineering is an inherently dangerous sport!
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