Standards

Avalanche Danger Scale

The avalanche danger describes the likelihood of occurrence and the possible size of avalanches in a specific region of at least 100 km².

The European Avalanche Danger Scale has five levels.

The avalanche danger scale – an overview

Avalanche Danger Scale Icon 5 very high | EAWS European Avalanche Warning Services
Danger Level

5 – Very high

Extraordinary avalanche conditions

Numerous very large and often extremely large natural avalanches can be expected, even in moderately steep terrain.

Recommendations for backcountry recreationists:
Avoid all avalanche terrain, both release and run out zones. You are advised not to engage in winter sports beyond open ski runs and trails. Pay attention to information from local authorities.

Very rarely forecast.
Avalanche Danger Scale Icon 4 high | EAWS European Avalanche Warning Services
Danger Level

4 – High

Very dangerous avalanche conditions

Triggering is likely, even from low additional loads, on many steep slopes. In some cases, numerous large and often very large natural avalanches can be expected.

Typical danger signs:
Widespread recent avalanche activity, cracking, “Whumpf” sounds.
Remote triggering of avalanches is typical.

Recommendations for backcountry recreationists:
Avoid all avalanche terrain, both release and run out zones. You are advised not to engage in winter sports beyond open ski runs and trails. Pay attention to information from local authorities.

Forecasted only on a few days throughout the winter.

Around 10 % of avalanche fatalities.
Avalanche Danger Scale Icon 3 considerable | EAWS European Avalanche Warning Services
Danger Level

3 – Considerable

Dangerous avalanche conditions

Triggering is possible, even from low additional loads, particularly on the indicated steep slopes. In certain situations some large, and in isolated cases very large natural avalanches are possible.

Typical danger signs:
Recent avalanche activity, cracking, “Whumpf” sounds.
Remote triggering of avalanches is typical, especially if Persistent weak layer is one of the avalanche problems.

Recommendations for backcountry recreationists:
The most critical situation for backcountry recreationists. Avoid all steep slopes with an avalanche problem present. Are you just a little bit in doubt about how to recognize the avalanche problem, avoid all avalanche terrain and remain on open ski runs and trails. Only persons with extended avalanche knowledge will be able to evaluate the avalanche problem, use the terrain efficiently and select the best possible route with minimal exposure.

Forecast for around 30 % of the winter season.

Around 50 % of avalanche fatalities.
Avalanche Danger Scale Icon 3 moderate | EAWS European Avalanche Warning Services
Danger Level

2 – Moderate

Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features
Triggering is possible, primarily from high additional loads, particularly on the indicated steep slopes. Very large natural avalanches are unlikely.

Typical danger signs:
Often you get no danger signs, but that does not necessarily mean it is safe. Pay extra attention if Persistent weak layer is one of the avalanche problems.

Recommendations for backcountry recreationists:
Backcountry activities should be selected carefully, especially on slopes with the aspect and elevation indicated in the avalanche warning. If Persistent weak layer is one of the avalanche problems, you should avoid avalanche terrain, unless you are certain that the persistent weak layer is not present in the slope you plan on skiing.

Forecast for around 50 % of the winter season.

Around 30 % of avalanche fatalities.
Avalanche Danger Scale Icon 1 low | EAWS European Avalanche Warning Services
Danger Level

1 – Low

Generally stable conditions
Triggering is generally possible only from high additional loads in isolated areas of very steep, extreme terrain. Only small and medium natural avalanches are possible.

Typical danger signs:
Rarely any danger signs.

Recommendations for backcountry recreationists:
Pay extra attention in slopes where you have an avalanche problem in combination with terrain traps.

Forecast for around 20 % of the winter season.

Around 5 % of avalanche fatalities.

HEADER PICTURE: Cracks © regobs.no, The Norwegian Avalanche Warning Service | EAWS