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Know Before
You Go

Know Before You Go is a free avalanche awareness program. Not much science, no warnings to stay out of the mountains, no formulas to memorize. In 1 hour, you will see the destructive power of avalanches, understand when and why they happen, and how you can have fun in the mountains and avoid avalanches.

Colorado Avalanche Center
Utah Avalanche Center

KBYG Content

Choose a link below to view the various KYBG and other avalanche materials!


When you are off the highway or outside of the resort in snow-covered mountains, you are in avalanche country.

What you don't know can kill you.

There are some simple steps you can take to have fun and stay safe in avalanche country.
Before you go into the mountains in winter, Know Before You Go.

Know the Steps

The Know Before You Go program stresses five steps of preparation to ensure the safest possible skiing/snowboarding experience when in uncontrolled areas.

1 Get The Gear

  • Always carry a transceiver, probe, and shovel in the backcountry to help you find a buried partner and be found
  • Always carry your gear on your body with your transceiver turned on
  • Consider riding with an inflatable pack to increase your chances of staying on top of an avalanche
  • Practice with your gear regularly. Seconds count and your gear only works when you can use it confidently and efficiently in bad conditions
  • Carry the gear and supplies you need to survive an injury or a long evacuation in winter conditions
  • Be able to communicate with your partners and rescuers
  • Remember that your gear helps you have a safer and more fun day - it does not guarantee your safety

2 Get The Training

  • Take an avalanche class and learn the basics of:
    • Different kinds of avalanches and how they occur
    • How terrain choices and changing weather impact your safety
    • How to travel in avalanche terrain to minimize your risk
    • How to make smart decisions as a group
    • How to rescue one or more buried people
    • How your actions can impact the safety of other groups
  • Learn how to provide first aid to an injured member of your party
  • Keep your skills current
    • Read
    • Study accident reports
    • Take refresher classes

3 Get The Forecast

  • Go to Avalanche.org to find your local avalanche center and get the forecast before you go out
  • Note the avalanche problems you expect to find and understand how different problems require different tactics
  • Be aware of any mitigation work planned for where you intend to ride
  • Conditions can change quickly and some riding areas are not covered by up-to-date forecasts - be prepared to assess conditions yourself
  • Do the research - be prepared with maps, understanding of the terrain, and reports from others
  • Create a riding plan before you head out
    • Set objectives and restrictions based on forecast conditions and group desires and capability
    • Make sure everyone understands the plan and agrees with it
    • Let someone know where you plan to go and when you plan to return

4 Get The Picture

  • Be aware of hazardous or changing conditions
    • Recent avalanche activity
    • Changing wind, snowfall, and temperature
    • Cracking or collapsing snow
    • Recent wind deposited snow
  • Does what you see on the ground match the forecast?
    • Conditions can change quickly and forecasts are not guarantees - re-assess as you go
  • Use test slopes
    • Low consequence
    • Representative aspect and elevation
  • Interactions with other groups - be aware of
    • Groups above you
    • Groups below you
    • Roads & buildings below you
    • Mitigation work nearby
  • Never intentionally trigger an avalanche unless you are sure the area below is clear
  • Group dynamics
    • Is anyone outside their comfort zone?
    • Is the group discussing options and concerns?
  • Identify safer and more hazardous terrain and minimize your exposure

5 Get Out Of Harms Way

  • Only one person on a suspect slope at a time
    • Don't help a buddy find a lost ski or get unstuck in hazardous terrain
    • Cross or ride suspect slopes one at a time
  • Don't stop in an area exposed to avalanche hazard
    • Watch each other, eat lunch, and regroup out of the way of a potential avalanche
  • Stay in contact with one another
    • Voice
    • Visual
  • Don't enter a closed area or any place undergoing mitigation work
  • Know what terrain traps are and avoid them


Don’t be an avalanche victim

If you follow these five steps, you can get out, have fun, and come home alive. Every time. You can help keep your friends alive.


The Program

Avalanches kill an average of 42 people each year in North America. Hundreds more are injured. Avalanches don't just happen to extreme athletes - they can happen to those skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, hiking, driving, hunting, bike riding, and more - anyone who can get onto or underneath steep snow-covered slopes. Many avalanche victims don’t know they are in avalanche danger and are unprepared to deal with an avalanche. This doesn't have to happen – the danger signs are usually obvious to those who know what to look for. Just as those in Hawaii learn about the dangers of rip currents and shore breaks at an early age, those living, working, and recreating in snowy mountains need to learn about avalanches. What they learn can save their lives.


The Know Before You Go program takes 40-80 minutes to present and consists of: 

  • A video showing the destructive power of avalanches and what you need to know to stay safe in avalanche terrain
  • A slide presentation by a local avalanche professional with more details about how to spot avalanche danger, how to navigate in avalanche terrain, what gear to carry and how to use it, how to find a report of current avalanche conditions in your area, and how to learn more about avalanches
  • Discussion with question and answers 

The program can be extended to go outside in smaller groups to provide safe opportunities for students to dig snow pits and practice with avalanche rescue gear. 

School assemblies and classes, work place safety meetings, community centers, snow sports shops, club meetings, and scout group meetings are all perfect for presenting KBYG.

If you would like to arrange for KBYG to be presented to your school class, scout troop, customers, or community, please contact your closest avalanche center, AIARE, or the central KBYG office.

The program is free, although as a non-profit organization, donations are always welcome.

If you'd like to become a local KBYG presenter, contact us.

Contact your Local Avalanche Center!

To find out more about classes near you please contact your local avalanche center. For those who do not have an avalanche center please contact Avalanche.org for more information.

Get the Materials

Want to be a KBYG presenter? Presentation materials are available to qualified avalanche professionals to promote avalanche awareness. You can get the video files listed in the Video Gallery and presentation slide decks.

The KBYG program was developed with generous grants from our sponsors and depends on the sharing of community resources. We welcome your feedback and encourage you to share slides that you add to the program to help continuously improve KBYG across North America. Contact Us

To see what course content is available and to download it or get it on a USB drive, go here.

Donate to KBYG

We want to keep avalanche awareness free. We need help to do that. The following sponsors have provided financial support to make this program possible. Please consider making a donation to KBYG to help develop new content and spread this valuable program.

Donate Online!

Mail a check to:
Utah Avalanche Center
PO Box 521353
Salt Lake City, UT 84109

Become a business sponsor

The Know Before You Go program is non-profit and depends on grants and donations. Please consider contributing to support being aware in avalanche terrain. Contact us with the form below for more information on how to donate, or to simply learn more about the program.


Utah Avalanche Center
P.O. Box 521353
Salt Lake City, UT 84152





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