Avalanche Problems Explained
The five types of avalanche problems as defined by the European Avalanche Warning Services (EAWS) are used by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service and most avalanche services worldwide.
The aim in identifying the five avalanche problems is to describe the most typical situations when snow instability is encountered in avalanche terrain.
By analysing weather factors and carrying out field observations the avalanche forecaster can identify the main avalanche problems that are present in the winter mountains. The identification of the avalanche problem forms the basis of the avalanche forecasters hazard evaluation process and the creation of the daily avalanche reports
The avalanche problems are also important for recreationists in their evaluation of the forecasted avalanche hazard level because they highlight the main cause of instability, the potential avalanche type and its location in the landscape.
They also complement the stated avalanche hazard level and any dangerous locations (slope aspect and elevation) and represent the third highest level in the information pyramid.
In addition to the five main avalanche problem the SAIS use the “Cornice problem”, this is a common feature in our mountains due to the very windy nature of our weather, the significant transport of snow and our topography. This is an optional problem and is not used by all European Avalanche Warning Services.
The following definitions provide reference information that describe the various problems in detail and, most importantly advice on how to manage the problem in the field.
Avalanche Problems – Watch the video
The following video has been supplied by the National Avalanche Center USA and presents a very good description of the relationship between the avalanche problem, the avalanche hazard level and the likelihood of avalanche involvement.
Please note that the video uses different terminology, problem number and type than that used by Scottish and other European services.