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In Switzerland, there is a avalanche forecast twice a day, at least during the winter months. This forecast reports about potential risky part regions, especially avalanche-prone expositions, and risky altitude ranges. This report is available for every region in Switzerland.

Is there something similar for North America? I'm especially interested in the region in and around Yosemite National Park.

  • What are you planning to do? Mountaineering? Back-country skiing? – Ben Crowell Mar 28 '13 at 15:42
  • @BenCrowell Original, I'm planning to go for a hike to Mount Dana. But it seems to be likely that there is some snow when I'm going there, so I want to climb the mountain with my snow shoes and to be well prepared, I also need an avalanche forecast. – RoflcoptrException Mar 28 '13 at 15:52
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    I see. Mt. Dana is beautiful, with fantastic views. Your best avalanche info would probably be from the park service. I would also suggest staying overnight in Lee Vining and asking locals for info on conditions at the higher elevations. There are guide services in town, and the guides are likely to have good info. Depending on conditions, you may want ice ax and crampons rather than or in addition to snowshoes. The ski area at Badger Pass may also have information, although not for the Dana area. – Ben Crowell Mar 28 '13 at 17:22
  • @BrenCrowell Thanks a lot for this info. Do you also know if you can rent ice axes there? Then I wouldn't have to take my with me on the plane...I think ice axes are a thing you can use a different one, while I would like to rely on my normal snowshes and crampons. – RoflcoptrException Mar 28 '13 at 17:35
  • No, as far as I know it is not possible to rent ice axes in California, the only exception being in the Mt. Shasta area. My experience with flights leaving the US is that it worked if I just strapped my ax to my backpack, asked for a plastic bag (the type used for car seats), put the backpack in the bag, and checked the bag. (Cover the sharp parts with plastic covers or duct tape.) You may have more hassles with the flight from Europe to the US; e.g., the Geneva airport refused to give me a bag due to environmental rules. Wrapping the whole pack in duct tape worked for me. – Ben Crowell Mar 29 '13 at 16:42
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There are regional Avalanche centers, which report to the National Weather Service so you can find information there. However, I would stick with the local information centers because most of the time they would get information first.

For example there are centers in Colorado, Northwest US, Utah, and Avalanche.org, which simply provides aggregation all the local reporting agencies.

  • avalanche.ca provides the same service for all of Canada – TMin Aug 28 at 18:04
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Basically the answer to your question is no, unless you're in very specific areas doing very specific activities. US wilderness areas are much bigger, much less accessible, and much less populated and developed than the Alps. You can get information, but it typically won't be very informative about specific places at specific times.

Here in California, the available information tends to be for areas near ski resorts. This may be useful for certain very specific activities, such as taking a ski lift up a mountain, then leaving the resort and skiing or snowboarding down in a nearby area. Some people call this "sidecountry" skiing.

For hiking and mountaineering in wilderness areas, a good rule of thumb is the following simple checklist: (1) Has there been more than 6 inches (15 cm) of snow in the last 48 hours? (2) Is the slope angle, determined from a topo map, more than about 30-35 degrees (or is the area bare of old-growth trees)? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, don't go.

In general, practice avalanche avoidance, not avalanche safety; plan at home. Don't succumb to social factors, such as going somewhere because you've already committed yourself do doing it with your friends, or going somewhere because other people seem to be doing it. Don't assume it's safe to go somewhere because you've been there before and it was OK then.

You can also take an avalanche safety course. However, the evidence seems to be that these courses are not effective in reducing people's chances of getting killed.

Some good scientific info is available in "Evidence of heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accidents," Ian McCammon, http://www.snowpit.com/articles/traps%20reprint.pdf

  • Thanks, probably you should include wind and temperature differences into your rules of thumb. And as another rule of thumb: If there are only bare rocks and no grass etc, the slope angle is more than about 30-35 degrees. – RoflcoptrException Mar 28 '13 at 15:54
  • Unfortunately, there is no simple practical rule that tells you when you can go. This is a note to potential readers: do not reverse the advice and say "ok, it was only 13 cm snow and only slope is 25 degrees, so I'll go". – Steed Apr 8 '13 at 5:11

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