October 24, 2014
Winter 2013 - 2014

Learn how to: Identify Red Flags

Mother Nature often provides clues or Red Flags when the snowpack is unstable.
1. Recent avalanche activity: Recent avalanche activity is the indisputable sign of instability. If you see recent avalanche activity the snowpack is unstable.

2. Wind: Wind creates dangerous slabs; if the wind is blowing or has blown recently it has probably created dangerous wind slabs and increased the avalanche danger.

3. Intense precipitation: Precipitation often increases the avalanche danger. The more snow that falls and the faster it falls the more apt it is to create dangerous conditions. And wet snow or rain falling on cold dry snow almost always causes avalanches.
Heavy snow in last 24 hours

4. Whoomping sounds or cracks: Cracks in the snow surface and/or "whoomping" sounds mean that a weak layer is collapsing and that the snowpack is unstable. This is a sure sign of instability; stay on low angle slopes.
Cracking Slab

5. Rapid temperature rise:
If the temperature is rising; watch out!  Often it will be cold powder skiing in the morning and then warm up significantly in the afternoon.   This rapid warming can transform fluffy powder into a dangerous slab. This newly formed slab can change stable powder conditions into unstable slab conditions in a very short time. In a settled more spring-like snowpack, if you are sinking into wet snow 6" or more, the snowpack surface is becoming saturated and wet slides could occur. Roller balls, snow snails and point releases all indicate wet unstable snow.

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