The dangers of the winter mountains

Dangers of the mountain

Today I want to talk about the dangers of the mountain and more precisely those that interest all those who love to visit the snowy mountain. In other words, I turn to ski mountaineers, freeriders, hikers, but also to simple hikers who occasionally frequent the mountains during the cold season.

Going to the mountains in winter, off the beaten track, is certainly very fascinating but also risky, especially for those who are not aware of the pitfalls that may arise.

Starting from the assumption that you are never expert enough to be able to recognize potential danger situations with mathematical certainty, I can say that it takes years of experience to acquire a good knowledge of the winter mountains. A knowledge that resides first of all in the development of a sensibility I would say almost animalistic with regard to everything that is around us and above all underfoot. This sensitivity to see, hear and perceive the risk allows us to recognize the conditions of danger in the most objective way possible also avoiding to magnify them when they do not exist. Often the bad information in some non-specialized newspapers, combined with the very wrong beliefs of which the world is full, contributes to creating in the imagination of many people an incorrect representation of reality.

Let’s go then to find out what the dangers of the winter mountains are

The dangers of the winter mountains are divided into two categories, subjective and objective

The subjective dangers concern the wrong behavior of the man towards the mountain and are attributable to errors of evaluation and to psychophysical deficiencies. The objective ones do not depend on human errors but on the natural laws that characterize the mountain in its winter appearance.

The main dangers of the mountain of a subjective type:

Inadequate training.

The training must be as close as possible to what we are going to do. A good physical efficiency is the basis for being able to stay lucid and present during our outings. The training then promotes confidence in our abilities allowing, in case of unexpected events, to have a good safety margin even in the most difficult moments.

Risultato immagini per mountain winter"
Inadequate equipment and clothing.

At home, even before leaving for the mountains, it is necessary to make a meticulous and precise evaluation of what can be used and what is useless. Periodically, equipment and clothing must also be checked and replaced if there are obvious signs of wear.

Inadequate technical capacity.

The excursion, the excursion, the ascent must be commensurate with the real technical capacity of one’s own and of one’s companions.


Danger not to be underestimated, it is often the cause of serious accidents even during the descents or in moments of tension drop. Normally in difficult situations the concentration is at maximum levels but it tends to fall when one is on the easy. It is always good to remember that sometimes even a trivial slip on a path is exposed, even if exposed to serious consequences.

The main dangers of the objective winter mountain:


Avalanches are the main pitfall for those who move on snowy terrain outside the beaten track. All slopes above 30 degrees outside the dense forest are potentially dangerous. Sometimes it is not enough to know the snow-avalanche bulletin by heart and have with it and know how to use the ARVA but it is necessary to have the courage and wisdom, in the presence of doubtful situations, even to go back. The bulletin gives us general indications that will help us decide at home whether to go or not to make a particular trip or climb but then the analysis of the conditions must be done on the spot and during the whole trip. Already during a medium-length excursion (eg the classic ski mountaineering tour of 1000 mt s.m.l.) the snow conditions and the consequent avalanche danger can vary even not a little. This is because there are many factors that negatively or positively affect the degree of danger. The amount of fresh snow present, the wind, the temperature, the slope of the slope, the structure of the layers that make up the snowpack are variables that must always be taken into consideration by those who venture out of the beaten track in winter.

Fall of stones.

Stone discharges can be caused by the action of frost and thaw, by the wind, and by sudden increases in temperature. It is good practice to avoid the gullies enclosed between the rocks during the hottest hours of the day or in any case in the case of particularly mild temperatures because they are the natural corridors of the stones that come off the side walls

Low visibility.

Fog and storm are typical atmospheric phenomenaof the winter season. Unlike summer storms, they are more predictable and avoidable events by carefully listening to national and local weather forecasts. Especially in the open areas outside the forest, where there are no reference points, poor visibility can make orientation very difficult. Proceeding becomes extremely stressful and tiring. It is necessary not to lose your temper and, in case of doubt, if possible, go back on your own steps. Some tools can help us like the topographic map, the compass, the altimeter and the GPS. As for the ARVA, besides having them with you, you must also know how to use them.


The frames are accumulations of compressed snow that form when the wind blows strongly in a single direction with respect to a ridge. These fragile snow structures, which can reach dimensions of up to several meters, when jutting out into the void are particularly dangerous especially in conditions of poor visibility. In fact, it may happen that you do not notice walking on it and breaking the frame

Risultato immagini per mountain winter"
Cold and wind.

The combined action of these two phenomena can be the cause of even severe freezing, especially if you have inadequate clothing for exposure. The wind has the ability to remove heat from the body and therefore makes us perceive a lower temperature than the real one (Wind Chill effect table).
dangers of the mountain

Most of the times accidents arise from the simultaneous presence of objective and subjective dangers in a limited period of time. This is the case, for example, of the triggering of a slab avalanche: the objective danger is there but it is latent (unstable slab), it will then be the skier who, due to inexperience or incorrect assessment of the slope danger, will cause it to detach, risking to be overwhelmed by it. Leaving home with a laundered glove is a subjective danger that can lead to the freezing of the finger if a long exposure to the cold is added to this inexperience!

All those who move out of the beaten track in winter should be aware that 100% absolute safety does not exist. Even using all the necessary precautions, unfortunately some small risks remain and must always be accepted with the awareness of one’s own psychophysical limits, of what one does and with great respect for what is around us.

So do you still like the winter mountains? To me, despite everything, even if it always makes me a little scared!

Risultato immagini per mountain winter"


Altimeter GPS free for iPhone