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How to assess avalanche danger in Norway

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
How to assess avalanche danger in Norway
It's important to familiarise oneself with the Norwegian Mountain Code and other resources that can help you stay safe in the snowy terrain. Photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash

The Easter holidays – and April in general – are usually associated with substantial avalanche danger in Norway. Here's what you need to know to stay safe in avalanche-prone terrain.


Hardly a year goes by without tragic news about deaths caused by avalanches in the Norwegian mountains in the month of April.

While organisations such as the Red Cross and the Norwegian Trekking Associations (DNT) run annual awareness campaigns to inform skiers and hikers about the risks and best practices in the mountains, fatalities still occur.

Therefore, it's important to familiarise oneself with the Norwegian Mountain Code and other resources that can help you stay safe in the snowy terrain.

Two things, in particular, can help minimise avalanche-related risk: staying up to date with the avalanche forecasts and looking out for red flags once you find yourself outdoors.


Check the daily avalanche danger level

The first thing you should do before heading into mountainous terrain with your skis is to check the daily avalanche forecast and danger level on is a warning and forecast service provided by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).

The service distinguishes between five avalanche danger levels: 1 (slight avalanche danger), 2 (moderate avalanche danger), 3 (significant avalanche danger, 4 (high avalanche danger), and 5 (very high avalanche danger).

By visiting the website, you can find the expected danger level on a regional level, as well as maps where the danger levels are expressed in colours (1 - green, 2 - yellow, 3 - orange, 4 - red, 5 – black).

Never venture into avalanche-prone terrain without checking the avalanche forecast first. Also, it's a good idea to follow the local weather conditions via or



Ask a guide

If you are skiing in a new area, one of the best things to do is see if there is a nearby guide or expert to check in with. They can either go with you on the trip and avoid areas prone to avalanches or help fill you in on the local areas most prone to avalanches.

Even though many will be experts in the local area, going into an area with a high avalanche warning on their advice still represents a significant risk. 

To find your nearest guide, it may be worth contacting the tourist office of the area you are headed to. 

What to look out for once you're on the snow

Along with following the daily avalanche forecast, it's very important to stay alert and look out for "red flags" once you're outside.

There are numerous signs that indicate increased avalanche danger, and should you notice any of the following, you'll need to proceed with extreme caution.


Volatile weather

A shift in the weather conditions is often a bad sign, and any form of precipitation can destabilise the snow cover. Furthermore, temperature changes – which can result in the snow and ice melting quickly – can also negatively affect the snowpack.

Signs of previous avalanches

Any sign of a previous avalanche – such as weirdly shaped chunks of snow – is a clear indication that the terrain you're in is potentially dangerous. You should also follow the news to identify (and avoid) areas where avalanches have taken place recently.

Cracks in the snow

If you can see clear cracks in the snow surface – especially if they're long (think several dozen metres) – proceed with caution, as the snowpack in your vicinity might soon collapse.


Wind-blown snow on ridges

Winds can deposit snow on the leeward side of slopes, creating a slab prone to collapsing. Furthermore, overhanging masses of snow on ridges can become unstable, break off, and set off an avalanche.

Weak snow layers in the snowpack

Always make sure to pay close attention to your surroundings while progressing through the landscape. If you hear a hollow sound (something like "whump") when you're traversing the snow, you could be moving in an area with weak layers in the snowpack. These weak layers can destabilise and trigger an avalanche.

If you're visiting Norway for the first time, or if you're inexperienced when it comes to challenging snowy terrain, consider hiring a ski guide. Local guides can help you identify the safest ski options in your area of choice – and serve as a voice of reason in case they notice any notable risks.

You can find a list of certified guides on the webpage of the Norwegian Mountain Guides organisation, here.


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