Avalanche Danger 2021


Whitney Bolar for The Easterner

The winter weather has left its mark on roads around Cheney and Spokane

By Grant Wengeler, Contributor


Washington and Oregon are currently both under extreme avalanche warnings following expectations of high precipitation from just off the Canadian border to some areas within Oregon. 

According to the Northwest Avalanche Center, at least 30 people have already died this season in avalanche-related events. With such an unusually high number of seasonal fatalities, combined with high precipitation and warming weather, warnings are being issued across the Northwest in an attempt to dissuade travelers from taking unnecessary risks in affected areas.

Reports have shown that avalanche casualties haven’t been this high since the winter of 2015-2016. To avoid being caught in an avalanche, the Alpine Institute suggests researching areas of high elevation before you visit, but also to be careful about trusting any single weather report because conditions can vary greatly even in small areas. 

For typical travelers who plan to stay on the main byways, avalanche danger is lessened but never zero. Check weather conditions before leaving home to make certain that avalanche danger has not been announced along the planned route. If planning to ski, snowboard or otherwise explore higher elevations away from maintained roads it is imperative that those who partake are aware of the danger, carry the necessary equipment and know how to properly use such equipment. 

Before visiting any avalanche-prone areas, one tool that may be useful is the Werner Munter Avalanche Reduction Method, which utilizes a calculator to determine the degree of risk for any particular area. To use this calculator it is necessary to research an area’s current avalanche danger level. Current avalanche danger levels across Washington and Oregon are currently rating up to 4 on a scale of 5. Also, research the type of snow and degree of the slope of the area and visit https://www.bergfreunde.eu/munter-reduction-method-calculator to plug in the factors and determine the level of danger. More information can be found online at the website above, or by visiting the American Alpine Institutes’s website.