Explained: Avalanche Terrain Traps

Guest Author | BackcountryBackcountry
Photo by The Norwegian Avalanche Center.

Words by the Norwegian Avalanche Center 4/28/20

Consequence thinking is important! Avoid terrain traps!

What happens if? A question that should be asked continuously when making your track choices ski touring. What are the consequences if we release and are caught in an avalanche? Or if an avalanche releases above us?

Terrain traps are terrain formations that make the consequences of being caught in avalanches more serious.

If we go into the statistics of Norwegian avalanche accidents, we see in many (most) cases that the death is a result of terrain traps.

What is a terrain trap?

Some of the most common are:
• River gullies
• Cornices
• Cliff
• Rocks
• Trees

If you get caught by an avalanche and end up at the bottom of a river valley and being buried underneath tons of snow masses, there are small chances to survive. If the avalanche carries you off a cliff or you hit rocks or trees along the way, the likelihood of being killed is quite high.

Consequence thinking is a very important part of your safe ski touring life. Spring skiing has its peak season, the corona restrictions are fewer, and sun and pleasant temperatures will make you feel that today you can put your tracks everywhere. But remember; the snow avalanches do not care that you are in a good mood and smile big smiles. Or if you are poor or rich. They take us all!

So think about the consequences. During your whole tour. Make safe tracks. Which brings you out and up. But also back home.

The easiest way to avoid the consequences of terrain traps is to avoid avalanche terrain. No avalanche terrain means no terrain traps.


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