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Risk of avalanche
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Risk of avalanche

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What is an avalanche?

An avalanche is a massive slide of snow down a slope.

How are they classified?

Avalanches are classified as new snow avalanches, fusion avalanches and slab avalanches.

What characteristics do they have and how do they come about?

Fusion avalanches are slow and massive whenever the air temperature is above zero. New snow avalanches are the result of a large accumulation of snow after a snow fall, normally because of the extra load of this newly fallen snow. Slab avalanches are produced by sliding between slabs of snow that have not fully bonded. These are typically caused by passing skiers, although they may be also be triggered by animals.

Which are the most dangerous?

Any avalanche can have serious consequences, although there are two additional factors to slab avalanches that make them particularly dangerous. Firstly, they are normally triggered by skiers. Secondly, these are the most frequent kind in Catalonia.


What are the best prevention measures?

So as to be able to enjoy excursions in the snow with the greatest safety, you should prepare beforehand, be familiar with the route, keep informed of the weather forecast and the avalanche risk, and bring the proper equipment. Our route should be mapped through the safest areas, for example, wooded areas where trees serve as anchors for massive snow. When coming upon an unsafe area, we should cross one by one, separated by a distance of 10 to 15 metres.

What equipment should we bring with us?

Whenever there is snow cover on the mountain, we must take with us the following essential equipment: an ARVA avalanche beacon, probe and snow shovel.

What purpose does it serve?

The ARVA avalanche beacon will point out a companion's location. The probe is used for locating him or her accurately. And with the shovel we can dig quickly through the snow.

What's ARVA?

ARVA stands for 'apparatus for rescuing avalanche victims'. It's an electronic device for sending out signals that can be picked up by similar devices. At the instant one of our companions has been caught in an avalanche, we set the ARVA to receive so that we can detect signals.

How to act

What should we do if we find ourselves in the middle of an avalanche?

Free yourself of skis and poles and use your arms to remain at the surface of the avalanche. Place your hands over your face to create a breathing space when the avalanche is coming to a rest.

Further information

How can we find out about the risk of avalanches?

It's easy. In the same way we look at the television for the weather forecast, there already exist programmes to provide us with this information on the television. It can likewise be consulted on the Internet. On the Meteocat site you will find a link explaining the avalanche forecast.

Josep Colás Salvador, Assistant Director, GRAE (Special Actions Support Group) Operations Division

Thanks to the Vallter 2000 ski station.

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