DANGER LEVELS & AVALANCHE SITUATION REPORT
Anyone touring on unsecured slopes should also be familiar with the avalanche situation report. It provides you with information about the current conditions in the mountains and informs you before each tour about the current avalanche hazard level.
AVALANCHE HAZARD LEVELS
The hazard level is a central component of the avalanche situation report and provides information on the estimated avalanche hazard of certain regions.
Extraordinary avalanche situation
Many very large and extreme spontaneous avalanches are to be expected. Those can reach roads and settlements in valley locations.
Abstention from snow sports apart from open slopes and routes recommended.
Is very rarely predicted - about 1% of all fatalities.
Very critical avalanche situation
Spontaneous, often very large avalanches are likely. Avalanches can easily be triggered on many steep slopes. Remote releases are typical. Humming noises and cracks are frequent.
Limit yourself to moderately steep terrain. Pay attention to the runout areas of large avalanches. Inexperienced skiers stay on the open slopes and routes.
Projected for a few days of winter - Around 10% of all fatalities.
Critical avalanche situation
WUMM noises and cracks are typical. Avalanches can easily be triggered, especially on steep slopes of the exposures and altitudes indicated in the avalanche.report. Spontaneous avalanches and remote triggers are possible.
Most critical situation for winter athletes! Optimal tour selection and application of risk reducing measures are necessary. Avoid very steep slopes of the exposures and altitudes indicated in the avalanche.report. Inexperienced skiers are better off staying on the open slopes and routes.
Projected for about 30% of the winter - about 50% of all fatalities.
Largely favourable avalanche situation
Alarm signals can occur sporadically. Avalanches can be triggered mainly on very steep slopes of the exposures and altitudes indicated on avalanche.report. Larger spontaneous avalanches are not to be expected.
Careful choice of tour, especially on slopes of the exposures and altitudes indicated on avalanche.report. Traverse very steep slopes individually. Particular care should be taken if the snowpack is not well prepared (old snow problem).
Forecasts for about 50 % of the winter - About 30 % of all fatalities.
Generally favourable avalanche situation
There are no alarm signals detectable. Avalanches can only be triggered sporadically, especially on extremely steep slopes.
Descend on extremely steep slopes one at a time and be aware of the danger of falling.
Projected for about 20 % of the winter - About 5 % of all fatalities.
AVALANCHE SITUATION REPORT
The avalanche situation report is an absolute must read before each of your adventures! Here you will find out what it contains and what you should be aware of. By the way, in the ABS A.WAY App you will find the situation reports for your favourite areas in the Alps.
THE GENERAL PART
- Overview of the avalanche hazard of a specific region
- Information on hazard areas related to altitude and exposure
- Review and outlook on the general danger level of the past or coming days
INFORMATION ABOUT THE SNOW COVER
- Most important information about the structure and development of the snowpack
- Information regarding the weak layers
- Information on the underlying hazard patterns
In this section you will learn everything about the expected snow conditions and how the snow cover will develop. In addition, this part will give you an insight into the susceptibility of the snowpack to faults - subsidence, weak intermediate layers and the wetness of the snowpack.
ASSESSMENT OF THE AVALANCHE HAZARD
- Assessment is based on the 5-step avalanche hazard scale
- Representation of the hazard areas in terms of terrain, altitude and slope exposure
- Consideration of snowpack stability and avalanche triggering probability
- Information about the additional load necessary to trigger an avalanche
After reading this section, you should have information on the following points: which altitudes, exposures and terrain are endangered and should be avoided; which avalanche is expected where and when?
SPECIFIC INDICATIONS AND TRENDS
- Recommendations of the respective avalanche warning service
- Information on the development of the avalanche situation, also during the course of the day
LIMITATIONS OF THE AVALANCHE REPORT
The avalanche situation report contains supra-regional information, so local conditions may well be assessed differently. The evaluation of a slope that you want to ski on can only be done by yourself. Supplement the information in the avalanche situation report with your own experience and knowledge of weather, snow cover and avalanches. Use the report to inform yourself especially about the danger spots and triggering probabilities, but always evaluate the conditions on site.
AVALANCHE SITUATION REPORT AND DANGER LEVELS AVALANCHES
Before every adventure in unsecured terrain, you should take a look at the avalanche situation report. It provides you with information about the avalanche warning level, current avalanche problems, the composition of the snowpack, special danger spots and the development of the avalanche situation. The avalanche warning levels are particularly important.
AVALANCHE HAZARD LEVELS
The avalanche danger is classified using the five-part European avalanche danger scale. The danger level depends on various factors - especially the triggering probability and the distribution of the danger points. Depending on the danger level, there are certain characteristics to be considered and recommendations for off-piste behaviour. They serve as a guideline and should help to assess the avalanche danger.
At this danger level there is an extraordinary avalanche situation. Many large and spontaneous avalanches are to be expected here. The extent of the avalanches can reach down into the valley and even spill roads or settlements. At level 5 it is recommended to avoid winter sports off the open slopes and routes. However, the highest danger level is very rarely predicted and accounts for about 1% of fatalities.
The situation at this stage is very critical. Spontaneous and often very large avalanches are possible. Typical are remote releases and especially in steep slopes avalanches can easily be triggered. For this reason, pay special attention to alarm signals such as humming noises and cracks. The avalanche warning service is recommended to be limited to moderately steep terrain and to pay attention to avalanche runout areas. Inexperienced winter sports enthusiasts should stay within the secured area. Level 4 is only predicted on a few days and affects about 10% of the fatalities.
In the critical avalanche situation, humming noises and cracks are typical. Avalanches can be triggered especially on steep slopes and in exposures and altitudes according to avalanche reports. At danger level 3, both remote triggering and spontaneous avalanches are possible. This danger level is the most critical level and is underestimated by many winter sports enthusiasts. A careful choice of route and the application of risk-minimizing measures are necessary. Avoid steep slopes as well as dangerous exposures and altitudes. Stage 3 is predicted to be around 30% of winter and causes around half of all fatalities.
The risk at this level is described as mostly favourable. Occasional occurrence of alarm signals. Occurrence of avalanches in extreme steep slopes and the indicated exposures and altitudes according to the avalanche situation report. Spontaneous and large avalanches are highly unlikely. The LWD recommends careful route selection, especially in dangerous areas. Very steep terrain should be travelled individually and special care should be taken if the snowpack is not well prepared due to problems with old snow. Stage 2 is most frequently predicted, about half of the winter and accounts for about 30% of fatalities.
The avalanche situation here is generally favourable. No alarm signs or features can be detected and an avalanche can only be triggered sporadically on extreme steep slopes. At danger level 1, it is recommended that steep slopes are only travelled individually and that the danger of falling is taken into account.
AVALANCHE SITUATION REPORT
In addition to the avalanche danger levels, the avalanche report provides many other insights into the current situation and the danger. In the upper section of the avalanche report there is a map of the individual region with the danger level marked. In addition, the avalanche problem is displayed and the danger zones are shown based on altitude and exposure. In addition, a tendency of the previous and next days regarding avalanche danger is shown. More detailed information can be found in the detailed description below the map. There, the avalanche danger is assessed even more precisely with regard to the probability of triggering and the required additional load. In addition, the type of avalanche possible and its spatial distribution are indicated. The second point is information on the structure of the snowpack and information on weak layers and hazard patterns. This part provides information on the susceptibility of the snowpack to failure and its development. The weather is also part of the avalanche situation report, as it has a great influence on the effect of the snowpack. Last but not least, there are hints, recommendations for behaviour and tendencies for the next days.
The avalanche situation report or avalanche bulletin as it is called in Switzerland is always for a specific region. The Avalanche Warning Service Austria is subdivided into the federal states, so there is, for example, a separate Avalanche Report Tyrol. Also in Germany it is divided regionally into e.g. the Avalanche Report Allgäu. However, the reports are always similar in structure and use the same scale and symbols.
In order to minimize the danger in the terrain, the situation report is the mandatory reading for every winter sports enthusiast. It can be read daily online as well as in an avalanche app. But the avalanche report has its limits. It is a supra-regional instrument for hazard forecasting, so regional conditions can also be different. Only you can decide whether the terrain can be skiable on site or is too dangerous. The report should always be used as a basis and supplemented with your own knowledge and experience.