Recognizing avalanche terrain can help you ensure only one person at a time is exposed to avalanche hazard.
So the first question to ask: Is the terrain steep enough to avalanche?
The second question to ask: If not, is it connected to steeper terrain?
Many avalanche fatalities have occurred when people were riding on low angle slopes connected to steeper slopes above them. The best way to determine whether the terrain is steep enough to avalanche is
to actually measure it with a slope meter or inclinometer. See photo at right.
Vegetation can help identify where avalanches occur:
Avalanches frequently run down these chutes with no trees. Trees in the run out zone show damage from avalanches. With a stable snowpack, climbing these chutes is a great idea, but do it one at a time and watch from a safe zone.
But I don't climb big hills?
Even small slopes are avalanche terrain. Recognizing avalanche terrain in big bowls is easy. Identifying smaller slopes that can be equally deadly is more difficult. If it is steeper than 30 degrees, it can slide. The small avalanche in the photo at the top of this page resulted in a fatality. Even on small slopes go one at a time.
When can I ride in avalanche terrain?
Some of the best riding is in avalanche terrain, but sometimes this is a good idea and sometimes it is not.