Storm Season Safety: Know Your Avalanche Risk


During storm season as California experiences heavy snow, strong wind and other weather impacts, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) wants all Californians to stay safe from an avalanche emergency. 

An avalanche is when a large amount of snow falls quickly down a mountain, typically on steep slopes or mountain sides. When an avalanche stops, it can cause people to become trapped underneath the concrete-like snow. 

Risk for avalanches can increase during the months of December through March, due to the heavy snow fall that the storm season can bring.  

With several mountainous regions throughout our state, a risk for an avalanche is very real and fatal threat for Californians, as we’ve seen recently near popular tourist destinations.  

Whether you live in heavy snow-prone areas, or making a trip to the mountains, it’s important to be prepared and know how to identify the signs of increased danger. 

Avalanche risks to look out for: 

  • Recent avalanches around the same location. 
  • Visible cracks across mountain slopes.  
  • Steep slopes: take extra precaution and avoid slopes steeper than 30 degrees or areas underneath them. Avalanches can move quickly down a mountain, typically on slopes of 30 degrees and steeper. 

Life-saving tips for consideration: Use the buddy system, travel in pairs or in groups when visiting the snow. Always make sure a trusted person knows your travel plans, especially where you plan on visiting and until when. Also consider bringing some safety items: 

  • A helmet to help reduce head injuries and create air pockets.  
  • Wear an avalanche beacon to help rescuers locate you.  
  • An avalanche airbag, a device that inflates to protect your head, neck, and upper body, can help keep you on the surface during an avalanche or prevent you from being completely buried. 

Follow avalanche warnings on roads. Roads can become closed, or vehicles may be advised not to stop on the roadside. Make sure to listen to local emergency authorities.  

Stay informed and sign up for alerts. Visit to sign up for free local emergency alerts. U.S. Forest Service Avalanche Centers partners with local avalanche centers to provide information on current and upcoming avalanche conditions. 



Avalanche | 

Avalanches | US Forest Service ( 

Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center » Home ( 

Sierra Avalanche Center | Backcountry Avalanche, Snow, and Weather Information for the greater Lake Tahoe area 

Bridgeport Avalanche Center – Bidgeport, CA 

Mount Shasta Avalanche Center | Know Before You Go » Connecting the public to avalanche information and education 

National Weather Service