Current Avalanche Advisory
Avalanche Problem TypesTuesday, November 24, 2015 - 6:13 PM
by Kip Rand
After two weeks of discussion and planning, the WAC has settled on our Avalanche Advisory format for the 2015-16 season. Prior to last season, the WAC offered "Current Conditions Bulletins" once a week that summarized recent trends in snow, weather and avalanche activity. Last winter, largely based on feedback from our users, WAC started issuing Advisories with Danger Ratings once a week according to the North American Danger Scale. After some internal discussions with input from the Forest Service National Avalanche Center and other small avalanche centers around the country, the WAC is going to move forward to an "Avalanche, Snow, and Weather Summary" format for this winter. The national policy governing how avalanche centers operate will be changing over the coming year, and at the WAC we want to stay ahead of the curve and provide you, our users, with the best avalanche safety information possible.
So what does this all mean for you? Instead of issuing an overall Danger Rating (Moderate, Considerable, etc.), the WAC is going to focus its Advisory on the Avalanche Problems instead of an overall hazard level. The Avalanche Problem (wind slab, persistent slab, etc.) describes the nature of the current avalanche danger, and offers advice on how to manage the risk. Since the Wallowa Avalanche Center does not issue an Advisory product every day of the week, we feel that this more nuanced approach will better deal with the complexities of snow and avalanche phenomena and will remain more relevant in between Advisories. Conditions can change fast in the winter backcountry, but the type and character of avalanches possible with the current snowpack, and the strategies we can employ to manage them will remain much more consistent day-to-day than an overall rating of avalanche hazard.
For more information about the Avalanche Problems, I've included links to two educational resources, courtesy of our friends at the statewide avalanche centers in Utah and Colorado.
Avalanche Problems Definitions from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. This page does an excellent job of explaining the nine Avalanche Problems in simple terms. Although the icons they use are a little different, the list of problem types and travel advice are the same across U.S. avalanche forecasting centers.
Avalanche Problems Toolbox from the Utah Avalanche Center. This article delves deeper into the concept and explores strategies for managing risk with regard to different Avalanche Problems a little more fully.
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