Highlands & Islands

Snowy start to Scotland's avalanche information season

Drifting snow Image copyright SAIS Northern Cairngorms
Image caption The SAIS Northern Cairngorms forecasters encountered temperatures of -5C and drifting snow at the weekend

Scotland's latest avalanche risk forecasting season has had a wintry start.

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.

Forecasters in all six areas encountered snow following the start of the latest season on Friday.

Image copyright SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Image caption A mountain hare in the Southern Cairngorms

Scottish mountain rescue teams have also been making the most of the conditions, with Braemar MRT joining Glenshee Ski Patrol for some winter weather training at the weekend.

Last season, SAIS said 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 Lochaber
Image caption Wading through snow drifts in SAIS Lochaber's area

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.

Image copyright Braemar MRT
Image caption Braemar MRT and Glenshee Ski Patrol made the most of the conditions for some winter weather training

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