AdventureExploration & Survival

Avalanches: Everything You Need to Know

Be prepared to go into the backcountry with our expert knowledge, advice, and gear recommendations to stay safe

(Photo: NaniP/iStock)


Understanding avalanches and avalanche safety is paramount to spending time in the mountains—as necessary as packing water or remembering your first-aid kit. Don’t worry: we’ve assembeled our best tips and safety advice here so you can go on your next ski trip with peace of mind and the right gear to stay safe.

5 Avalanche Safety Rules of the Backcountry

A look at the human factors that can blur judgment in the field.

avalanche outside safety survival skiing
Ignoring those avalanche signs as you enter the backcountry: not a good idea. (Photo: Jon Paul/Gallery Stock)

Using tools from psychology and advertising, avalanche researcher Ian McCammon has spent the past 20 years analyzing what he calls the psychological terrain. The upshot: more accidents are due to decision-making errors rather than misreading the snowpack.

Avalanche Safety Gear That Could Save Your Life

The key to digging your friends out alive is how fast you are with these essential avalanche safety tools.

avalanche beacon probe shovel skiing snowboarding backcountry safety survival tools gear outside
Two keys to effective avalanche response: Having the right tools and working as fast as humanly possible. (Photo: wasja/Thinkstock)

Heading to the backcountry responsibly means knowing how to handle the worst. Equip yourself with these three basic tools.

The Map That Will Help You Avoid an Avalanche

Playing safely in the mountains requires an intimate knowledge of terrain and an understanding of how a host of variables—including sun, wind, and temperature—affect the snowpack.

Here's a breakdown of what to pay attention to, and how it can affect your safety. (Photo: Louis Arevalo/Tandem)

Don’t take on the backcountry without knowing what you’re looking at.

Are You Prepared for an Avalanche?

A basic 10-question checklist to make sure that you’re focusing on the right things when you head out into the backcountry.

There's a movement to prioritize decision making based on terrain, human factors, and conditions. (Photo: Jason Maehl/Aurora)

Until a few years ago, standard Avalanche 1 courses focused on teaching students to dig snow pits and look for weak and faceted layers that might cause a slide. Now there’s a movement to prioritize decision making based on terrain, human factors, and conditions rather than snow-pit analysis.

Filed To: SurvivalToolsScienceWeatherSnow Sports
Lead Photo: NaniP/iStock
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