The attributes of a piece of terrain, such as aspect, elevation, shape, etc.

This photo shows a pattern of avalanche activity on slopes with similar characteristics: High elevation and on north to east aspects. Credit: Crested Butte Avalanche Center.

Avalanche hazards are rarely ubiquitous across the entire landscape.  Avalanche activity is often associated with slopes sharing similar characteristics. In other words, there is usually a pattern to where and what kinds of terrain are most hazardous.  Slopes are characterized by their orientation, elevation, slope angle and shape, forest density, exposure to wind and sun, etc.  Understanding how to recognize and describe a slope’s characteristics is an essential skill for managing avalanche hazards.