The categorization of avalanches based on physical, objective, and easily observable characteristics such as hard or soft, wet or dry.

Avalanches come in various flavors. These photos contrast a dry, hard slab (left) with a wet loose avalanche (right). Credits: Sawtooth Avalanche Center and Crested Butte Avalanche Center


Avalanche types are used to classify observed avalanches without inferring details related to their failure mechanisms, formation environment, or travel management. Sometimes an avalanche can be two different types. For example, a dry snow avalanche might turn into a wet snow avalanche partway down the track where snow conditions change from dry to wet.