Snow characteristics

Take a close at the nearby snow for more information on avalanche hazard. Are there new avalanches in the area? Do you see cracks close by, indicating you are on an unstable slab? Does an area of snow settle as you walk across it, again warning of a slab that could slide? Does the snow settle with a loud thump, indicating a hard slab ready to release ?

The stability of the snow can be tested by probing with an ice axe or ski pole to feel for layers of varying solidity or by digging a pit to examine the layers for weakness. Specialized publications give details of these tests, which are mainly used during winter travel.

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