PORTLAND -- On average, 28 people die in avalanches in the United States each year.
As the popularity of winter mountain sports grows, so too does the need for dependable avalanche forecasts.
The above photo shows a small avalanche on Mt. Hood.
The task to predict the stability of mountain snow fields is shared by the National Weather Service and U.S. Forest Service forecasters.
Classifications for avalanche danger are the following:
EXTREME: Avoid all avalanche terrain
HIGH: Very dangerous conditions, do not travel in avalanche terrain
CONSIDERABLE: Dangerous avalanche conditions, evaluate snowpack and plot routes very carefully and be conservative when making decisions
MODERATE: Avalanche conditions are heightened in specific types of terrain, evaluate terrain and snow carefully and identify features of concern
LOW: Conditions are generally safe but look out for unstable snow on isolated terrain features
Currently, avalanche forecasters do not have computer models that forecast with any degree of accuracy.
Good weather information and local experience with the terrain are relied upon to make decisions regarding safety concerns.
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Meteorologist Rod Hill