Avalanche Problems Toolbox

NAC - Avalanche Problems Explained - Video Cover

Avalanche Problems Explained


The Avalanche Danger is a broad brushstroke of daily conditions.

Avalanche Problems are an extension of the Danger Scale and use four factors to give a more nuanced description of the days avalanche conditions:

  1. the type of potential avalanche

  2. the location of that avalanche in the terrain

  3. the likelihood of triggering it

  4. the potential size of the avalanche

Type of Avalanche Problem: Avalanches have a wide variety of personalities. Avalanche specialists in the United States use nine distinct ‘types’ to describe the days avalanche conditions.

Avalanche Problems are: 1) Storm snow, 2) Loose dry, 3) Wind slab, 4) Persistent slab, 5) Deep slab, 6) Loose wet, 7) Wet slab, 8) Cornice, and 9) Glide slab.

Avalanche Problems have become a mainstay, not only for forecast centers but also for avalanche education throughout North America. Among professionals, it is widely agreed that the type of avalanche conditions determines one’s choice of terrain. Many of our users are only beginning to understand this concept. Therefore, we seek to expand the current descriptions by adding terrain management advice specific to each of the nine Problems.

[That is, approach the mountain with an eye toward the existing conditions and choose terrain accordingly. Then, based on what avalanche conditions exist, what the Avalanche Problems are, choose terrain wisely.]

Not all avalanches are made the same. As a result, travel and decisions in avalanche terrain are influenced by the kind of avalanche you expect to encounter. 12-27-16


Travel Advice for Avalanche Problems



Terrain Management Metrics



Avalanche Danger Scale




Avalanche Problem, Avalanche Encyclopedia from Avalanche.org.

Avalanche Problem Toolbox, Utah Avalanche Center. By Wendy Wagner and Drew Hardesty. From Proceedings, International Snow Science Workshop, Banff, 2014. Public forecasting tool designed to communicate travel advice specific to each of the established Avalanche Problems.

Read the original paper: “Travel Advice for the Avalanche Problems: A Public Forecasting Tool” (PDF)

(Content on this page comes from these resources.)