Norwegian Avalanche: How to Understand Avalanche Risk

In a mountainous and snowy winter country, avalanches are a real risk in many of Norway. Whether you are a resident or a visitor, here are some things you need to know:

At this time of the year (early April), there is no day without another avalanche report somewhere in Norway. In the Norwegian mountains, locals and tourists die every year.

Sadly, it’s no surprise, as an amazing 7% of Norway is at risk of an avalanche.

If you live in a mountainous area or are visiting Norway for a ski trip, there are a few things you need to know to be safe.

What is an avalanche?

Most people have at least some thought of what an avalanche is. But if not, read on! Avalanches are best described as the rapid flow of snow on hillsides and other slopes.

They can be caused by weather such as increased precipitation, or by other means such as human or seismic activity. Often it is a combination of factors that cause an avalanche. We will discuss different types of avalanches later.

Avalanche in Finnmark, northern Norway.
An avalanche in a fjord in Finnmark, northern Norway.

every day Norwegian winterDue to these events, some roads and railroads are closed. However, you don’t even need an avalanche to confuse your life. Those risks also cause many people to evacuate their homes.

Norwegian avalanche forecast

Detailed avalanche forecasts are available from the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Authority (NVE), along with flood and landslide warnings. This service has been available since 2013. The risk of serious avalanches is usually highlighted in weather forecast apps as well.

The website shows the danger levels of different regions and mountains based on international standards. As I wrote this story, I took an example of the screenshot below.

An example of a Norwegian avalanche warning.
An example of an avalanche forecast in Norway. Screenshot of

Danger level 1 – low: Snow packs are tightly glued and generally stable. Triggers are usually only possible from high additional loads in isolated areas of very steep extreme terrain. Only avalanches and small sized natural avalanches are possible.

Danger Level 2 – Medium: Snow packs are reasonably well glued on some steep slopes, but generally well glued on others. Triggers are possible, mainly from high additional loads, especially on the steep slopes shown. It is unlikely that there will be a very large size natural avalanche.

Danger level 3 – quite: Snow packs are poorly glued on many steep slopes. Triggers are possible, especially on specified steep slopes, even when the additional load is low. Large natural avalanches can occur in some cases and, in isolated cases, very large natural avalanches.

Avalanche close-up.

Danger level 4 – high: Snow packs do not adhere well on most steep slopes. Triggers can also occur from low additional loads on many steep slopes. In some cases, a large number of large and often very large natural avalanches are expected.

How to reduce the risk of avalanches

First and foremost, pay attention to avalanche predictions and choose the right route.You can also consider avoiding it Classified avalanche terrain Regardless of expectations. These are available in the Romsdalen, Lofoten and Troms regions.

When you go, make sure you are fully prepared with the proper gear, including an avalanche safety device. Navigating safely and knowing how to survive in the harsh cold is an important skill for the group.

If you are familiar with skiing elsewhere, beware of overconfidence. Norwegian ski touring conditions can vary considerably. Primarily, the sun plays a much more important role later in the season than elsewhere. Also, it is common for long periods of weakness to persist, especially away from the coastline.

Types of Norwegian avalanches

Avalanches are usually associated with one or more of the following conditions: fresh snow, windy snow, persistent weak snow layers, damp snow, or slow gliding. Avalanches and slab avalanches can occur under various conditions.

Loose avalanches are usually associated with recent snowfalls and release unbound loose snow. They start at some point and widen as you go down.

Slavic avalanches are completely different. When triggered, the entire section of snow (usually slowly joining onto a weak layer) falls. They have clear and wide fracture lines.

Ski touring in the Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Ski touring in the Lofoten Islands, Norway.

Read more about Norwegian avalanche types Here..

I live in an area where avalanches are likely to occur

Over the last few decades, knowledge of avalanche risk has increased significantly. If you live in the Norwegian mountains, there is a lot of information you need to know.

In high-risk areas, measures are being taken to protect the building. These include walls and fences. For example, NGI oversaw the construction of a 360-meter-long embankment wall above the hotel. Loen In 2015.

The Longyearbyen Town The Svalbard Islands are one of Norway’s most avalanche-prone areas in recent years. Our changing climate saw more winter rainfall and caused some serious avalanches that killed us. Since then, people living in several parts of the town have been permanently relocated.

In northern Norway, fences on steep hillsides in urban areas are common.The photo below shows the fence installed in Hammerfest..

Avalanche protection at Hammerfest. Photo: dvlcom/
Avalanche protection at Hammerfest in northern Norway. Photo: dvlcom/

Extensive research has been incorporated into planning and building codes. It is not permitted to build new private homes in areas where there is a high probability of an annual avalanche. More than 1 in 1,000 people. One in 5,000 people need to build a hotel, hospital, kindergarten, etc. The same rules apply to the risk of landslides.

Avalanche research in Norway

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) is an independent international center for applied research and consulting in engineering-related earth sciences, integrating geotechnical, geological, and geophysical expertise. They serve as a Norwegian capacity center for avalanches.

“Our core expertise is related to the mechanisms and conditions that lead to avalanches, as well as the associated protection against avalanches and the measures that can reduce the risks associated with avalanches.” NGI website..

Issues related to avalanches and NGI research efforts include:

  • Modeling and calculation of runout distance and force
  • Full-scale avalanche measurement with Ryggfonn
  • How to investigate areas where avalanches are likely to occur
  • New avalanche warning methods and emergency routines
  • Protective measures against avalanches such as catching dams and snow fences.

NGI leverages the expertise of France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the United States and Japan to work on international projects. Norwegian Avalanche: How to Understand Avalanche Risk

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