Wed, November 23, 2022

The Avalanche Problem Rose

The problem rose is a new addition to our forecasts this season. Many avalanche centers in the lower 48 have been using this tool for a while now, and we are going to try adding it to our toolbox. Our plan is to try using the rose this season, then reassess at the end of the year and decide how well it worked.
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The rose is structured by two main elements:

  1.     Aspect: The rose is divided into 8 different aspects.
  2.     Elevation: The rose is also divided into our three elevation bands – Alpine (>2,500’), Treeline (1,000’ – 2,500’), Below Treeline (<1,000’).

These two features are combined to represent a bird’s eye view of a conceptualized mountain. The sections of the rose that are highlighted in gray will be the locations where you are most likely to find the given avalanche problem that day. It is less likely the problem will exist in areas that are colored white. In the example below, small to large wet loose avalanches are likely, and will be most likely found on south to east aspects at and below treeline.

As with any other part of the avalanche forecast, this tool has its limitations. There are certain things this avalanche problem rose cannot do. It cannot rule out an avalanche problem for a specific elevation/aspect. Just because a portion of the rose is not filled in does not mean it is unconditionally safe. Mountains are complex, and the snowpack can vary greatly. Yes, the gray areas on the rose will indicate higher likelihood of encountering an avalanche problem. BUT– we are not ruling out the possibility of finding that problem on the white areas. The rose simply shows the elevation/aspect where you are most likely to encounter the avalanche problem. In many cases, all aspects will be highlighted and the rose will essentially be another way to view avalanche problems across different elevation bands.