Avalanche

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An avalanche is a large mass of snow, ice, soil or rock, which detaches from a mountain slope and slides or falls suddenly downward. It also refers to the falling action itself. An avalanche path has a starting zone, a track, and a runout zone. The starting zone is the most volatile area of a slope, where unstable snow can fracture from the surrounding snowcover and begin to slide. Typical starting zones are higher up on slopes, including the areas beneath cornices and "bowls" on mountainsides. However, given the right conditions, snow can fracture at any point on the slope. The avalanche track is the path or channel that an avalanche follows as it goes downhill. When crossing terrain, be aware of any slopes that look like avalanche "chutes." Large vertical swaths of trees missing from a slope or chute-like clearings are often signs that large avalanches run frequently there, creating their own tracks. There may also be a large pile-up of snow and debris at the bottom of the slope, indicating that avalanches have run. The runout zone is where the snow and debris finally come to a stop. Similarly, this is also the location of the deposition zone, where the snow and debris pile the highest. Although underlying terrain variations, such as gullies or small boulders, can create conditions that will bury a person further up the slope during an avalanche, the deposition zone is where a victim will most likely be buried.

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