Often a specially trained team will fire explosives at avalanche danger areas early in the morning to induce avalanches and to test the snowpack to see if avalanches are likely to occur.
In the absence of explosives, however, the mountain will keep track of its weather conditions throughout the season to make educated guesses at how the snowpack is layered and if it is likely to slide.
Field testing methods for avalanches include digging a section out of a slope and judging by the layers of the snowpack whether an avalanche is likely (one weak layer can lead to a slide), looking for cracks in steep areas, and listening for “whomp” noises when walking above danger areas.
First of all, mountains don’t test for avalanches. But, specially trained individuals and trained teams will be able to predict if a mountain is particularly prone to an avalanche by looking at the weather (locally), forecasts, prior history of avalanches on that mountain, wind speeds and forecasted wind speeds, the appearance of the sky (how clear is it), and air temperature, as well as many other points. Snow pits will also be dug to see how packed the snow is. If a mountain looks as though, based on the earlier observations and tests, it has an avalanche risk, then specialized teams will use explosives to start the slide and get it out of the way and over with.
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