Avalanche Variables: Angle of Slope

The large majority of avalanches happen on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees.  A clinometer is an essential tool that will help you gauge a slope’s angle.  It does not need to be expensive, and it is even possible to easily make one at home. 

As you gain more experience judging slope angles, you will not need to rely on clinometers as much and be able to ‘sense’ the angle of slope. 

When the snowpack is unstable and you have determined some weak layers by digging a profile, you might want to expand the range of the slope angles to avoid by a few degrees.   

This information is intended to give a basic guideline for backcountry enthusiasts who are looking to understand more about avalanche terrain.  It is not intended to be a replacement for a course with a qualified instructor

As always, never go into the backcountry without proper gear.   Always carry a transceiver, shovel, and probe… and the knowledge/experience of how to use them properly.  Always travel with competent companions whom you trust with your life to rescue you. 

If you have not taken an avalanche skills training course, you are rolling the dice every time you go out by not having proper knowledge of dangerous terrain.   We offer courses every week that are designed to give you basic knowledge for going out into the backcountry.

It is also a good idea to hire a guide to show you various skills and methods for venturing out into the backcountry.  If you don’t know, don’t go!


Angle of Slope is one of the Top 7 Avalanche Variables to Consider, brought to you by Whistler Alpine Guides Bureau.  The other 6 are:

  1. Aspect
  2. Snowfall
  3. Temperature
  4. Terrain
  5. Vegetation
  6. Wind


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