Avalanche safety tip of the week
January 26, 2006
Terrain selection is a major part of staying safe while traveling in the backcountry. Learn to identify slopes that have a slope angle of 30 degrees or less. During periods of avalanche danger, these slopes will provide the safest travel options when the snowpack is unstable.
Travel for a few days and carry in your pocket a tool for measuring slope angles known as a clinometer. Try to guess the angle of a slope, then take out your clinometer and measure it. This takes practice, so don’t become complacent after a few lucky guesses.
Once you learn to accurately identify slope angles without the aid of a clinometer, you can make terrain selection decisions on the move as you are traveling uphill or downhill. Having this skill is a key piece of safe backcountry travel during periods of snowpack instability and subsequent avalanche danger.Brandon Schwartz is the Avalanche Forecaster for the Sierra Avalanche Center and U.S. Forest Service in the Tahoe Region. For more information and daily updates, please see http://www.SierraAvalancheCenter.org or call the Avalanche Hotline at 530-587-2158.