An avalanche, sometimes called a snowslide, is the rapid flow of snow, ice and/or rock down a slope or mountain. They can be triggered by natural forces such as precipitation, earthquakes or the weakening of snowpack (layers of slow that accumulate in areas of high elevation and cold temperatures). They can also be caused by human activity when someone walks or rides over a weak area of snow. Slab avalanches—when a large slab of stronger ice or snow dislodges from on top of a weaker snow layer—are the most dangerous. Avalanches can obstruct everything in their path, destroy entire buildings and lead to serious injury and death.

Italian Red Cross volunteers recue people affected by an avalanche that engulfed a hotel in Abruzzo region following earthquakes in January 2017

Do you know how to prepare for an avalanche?

Do's and dont's

  • Check weather warnings and conditions
  • Wear warm clothing
  • Tell people where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Never go out on a mountain alone
  • Track where affected people are with your eyes and alert authorities
  • If you get buried, keep your mouth shut and teeth clenches
  • Try to escape horizontally across the mountain, not by going down

Watch: how to prepare in case of an avalanche