When dealing with early season avalanche hazard, the bottom line is simple; if there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide.
Whether you’re out in the mountains hiking, hunting, skiing, climbing, snowboarding, or riding, approach steep smooth snow-covered slopes with suspicion and bring avalanche rescue gear. In past seasons, early-season avalanche fatalities have occurred. Don’t let the date on the calendar fool you if you encounter winter-like conditions.
You are most likely to encounter early season avalanche hazards in high alpine terrain, on permanent snowfields, and in wind loaded pockets. This can pose a dilemma since these are frequently the same locations where early season recreational opportunities exist. Pay attention to snow depth and wind loading patterns as you travel. Recognize when you transition into areas of deeper snow. Limited information this time of year can make assessing the avalanche hazard more difficult. When you find a steep smooth snowy slope assume it could avalanche and take time to gather observations, and consider lower angle terrain. Early season conditions harbor numerous obstacles and can make even small avalanches deadly by carrying you through rocks, into trees or streams, or over cliffs.
If you’re out in the mountains, let us know what you find. You can share your observations with your avalanche community by submitting an observation.
Forecasts: Avalanche and mountain weather forecasts typically begin in mid to late November as the winter snowpack begins to build. In the meantime, take a moment to check over your gear, refresh your snow and avalanche training (check here and here), and get excited about the upcoming winter.
Weather stations: Fall is a busy time for weather station maintenance. Ski areas and other winter programs are spinning up, just like NWAC. We will work with our weather station partners to ensure the weather station network is in fine shape before forecasting begins.