Every winter, there are instances of people getting trapped in avalanches. This is an unfortunate and devastating part of outdoor winter recreation. An avalanche is a mass of snow that slides rapidly down a slope, usually a steep mountain side. Avalanches can be triggered by weather, such as drastic changes in temperature or wind-drifting snow, or by human activities, such as stress from skiers. Most avalanches occur in the backcountry, where the snow isn’t meticulously managed. In and around ski resorts, avalanche experts often create avalanches in strategic spots to prevent natural avalanches from damaging property or hurting patrons. Almost all avalanches occur on slopes between 25 and 50 degrees, above treeline, and facing away from prevailing winds. This side of the slope tends to collect a lot of snow.
Between 20 and 40 people die each year in North America due to avalanches; 90% of these deaths are from slides caused by the victims or their parties. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce risk.
This blog is managed by the staff and volunteers of Galena Creek Visitor Center. We write about parts of the natural world that we find fascinating and want to teach others about, as well as keeping you updated on the Visitor Center and park. If you want to learn more, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, where we share upcoming events, updates on the ecology of the park, and highlights from each month.