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Gliding avalanches

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What?

Characteristics

The entire snowpack is gliding on the ground, typically on smooth ground such as grassy slopes or smooth rock zones. High activity of glide‐snow avalanches are typically related to a thick snowpack with no or only few layers. Glide snow avalanches can occur both with a cold dry snowpack and with a warm wet snowpack. The release of a glide‐snow avalanche is difficult to predict, although glide cracks open usually before a release.

Expected avalanche types

  • Glide snow avalanches; cold dry or 0 °C isothermal wet snowpack
  • Any avalanche release is usually natural. Human and artificial triggering is unlikely.

Where?

Spatial distribution

Predominant on smooth ground and on every aspect, but more often on south‐facing slopes.

Position of weak layers in the snowpack

Interface between the ground and overlaying snowpack

Why?

Release characteristics

Glide‐snow avalanches are caused by a loss of friction at the snow‐ground interface.

When?

Duration

Days to months; possibly entire winter‐season. The release can occur at any time during the day. In the spring, gliding avalanches occur mostly in the later part of the day.

How to manage?

Identification of the problem in the field

With the presence of glide cracks the problem can often be localized, however, the presence of glide cracks does not indicate imminent avalanche release, as this is nearly impossible to predict. Avalanche release without pre‐existing glide cracks is also common.

Travel advice

Avoid areas close to glide cracks.

Typical accident

Stanserhorn, Stans (NW), 24 February 2012