Highlands & Islands

Scotland' s new avalanche risk forecasting season begins

Deep snow Image copyright Paul Noble/SAIS Southern Cairngoms
Image caption The Scottish Avalanche Information Service assesses conditions in six mountain areas

Scotland's latest avalanche risk forecasting season has begun.

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) assesses snow and avalanche conditions in six mountain areas from mid-December to mid-April.

The areas are Lochaber, Glen Coe, Creag Meagaidh, Southern Cairngorms, Northern Cairngorms and Torridon.

Last season, there were fewer avalanches but more people caught by them - despite long periods of little or no snow.

Twice as many people were caught in 2018-19 than in 2017-18 - one of the coldest in 25 years - according to SAIS, which reported on the figures last month.

Total number of avalanches and fatalities recorded in SAIS seasons

  • 2018-19 - 144 (3 fatalities)
  • 2017-18 - 260 (0)
  • 2016-17 - 90 (0)
  • 2015-16 - 207 (3)
  • 2014-15 - 305 (1)
  • 2013-14 - 350 (0)
  • 2012-13 - 129 (8)
  • 2011-12 - 154 (0)
  • 2010-11 - 178 (1)
  • 2009-10 - 220 (5)

Three people died last winter, the first avalanche fatalities the service has recorded since 2015-16.

The service said it knew of at least 20 others who survived avalanches last winter, with "dynamic" and "rapidly changing" weather systems affecting the stability of the snowpack.

There were wintry storms, but also long periods of mild weather without snow.

Image copyright SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Image caption SAIS seasons run from mid-December to mid-April

Avalanches can occur naturally, be triggered accidentally by people, or be caused deliberately to remove an avalanche risk in ski areas.

Hillwalkers, climbers and skiers use SAIS information alongside weather forecasts to help them plan trips.

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