Avalanches are fucking terrifying. I mean think about it. At any moment the snow beneath your feet could give way and drag you to a slow and painful, freezing cold death. It makes me shiver just thinking about it. On average 30 lives will be claimed by avalanches every year in the French alps alone, so it’s worth knowing a little bit about them before heading out on the hill.
Simply put, an avalanche is a quick flow of snow down the mountain or hill. Talk about stating the fucking obvious. The lethal combination that equates to an avalanche is simple, snow and a slope. With both of those things in place there is always a risk of one tearing you a new a-hole.
The conditions that can cause an avalanche may be very complex. The avalanche has 3 main parts:
#1: The Starting Zone:
This is the most volatile area of the slope. In this zone, the snow is very unstable and can easily fracture from the rest of the snow and begin the avalanche. Even though the starting zone is usually located on the top of the hills, it can fracture at any point of the slope.
#2: The Avalanche Track:
This is the path that the avalanche follows when it’s going down the mountain. Self explanatory really.
#3: The Runout Zone:
This is the area where the snow finally stops.
There are many different factors that may determine if an avalanche is about to occur or not. However, since you can start observing some concerning factors now and the avalanche may or may not happen, it’s hard to let people know that there might be a dangerous situation.
Among the factors that can affect the likelihood of an avalanche are the temperature, the weather, the terrain, wind direction, slope orientation and steepness, vegetation, among others. The problem is not only there are many factors that you need to pay attention to as well as the different combinations of the different factor may originate different conclusions regarding if an avalanche is likely to occur or not. Not to mention that some of these factors can change within less than 1 hour like the snowpack or the temperature.