Winter Safety

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
3 minutes, 17 seconds

This video describes hazards to be aware of when venturing out of the parking lot during the snowy season at Crater Lake National Park. For a version of this video with audio descriptions, navigate to


Crater Lake National Park offers wonderful opportunities for winter recreation. The park receives more than 500 inches of snow per year. Remember, though, that winter conditions bring certain hazards. Before visiting, take a few minutes to learn about winter driving in the park, watch the video above, and review the hazards below. You are responsible for your own safety.

Snow Cornices

Snow cornices are overhanging deposits of snow formed as wind blows snow over an edge. Cornices are difficult to identify from above and can extend beyond the rim of the caldera ten feet or more. They can collapse when weight is added to them. You might walk onto a cornice without knowing it. When near the rim of the caldera, stay well away from the edge—what appears to be solid ground may be a cornice that could give way.


Snow on the park's steep slopes can create ideal conditions for avalanches. Influenced by wind, temperature, snow, rain, slope, and aspect, the risk of an avalanche can vary daily or even hourly. The majority of avalanche accidents are caused by backcountry users traveling through terrain that is unsafe, so knowledge of conditions and attention to warning signs is essential for safe winter recreation.

If you intend to venture away from plowed roads and parking lots, check current avalanche forecasts on the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center website, and spend some time learning about avalanches and avalanche safety.

Slope: As a rule, avalanches occur on slopes steeper than 30 degrees. Learn how to identify these slopes and avoid them during hazardous conditions. If you choose to travel on steep slopes, know how to evaluate the hazard and how to react should an avalanche occur.Snowpack: Slides occur when the snowpack is unstable—most often during or right after a storm. Wind also can create unstable conditions by moving snow and adding weight to the snowpack. Temperature changes, such as rapid warming, also can cause snow to become unstable.


Roofalanches are avalanches that slide off the roofs of buildings. Heavy sheets of snow and ice often accumulate on roofs before finally sliding. Never stand under the eaves of a building, and don't climb on snow-covered roofs. A roofalanche can occur without warning, trapping a person under heavy snow or between a building and the snowpack.

Tree Wells

A tree well is an unstable hole or depression around the base of a tree. It is formed when low branches prevent snow from filling in around the trunk. A person can fall into a tree well and become trapped, resulting in suffocation. It can be extremely difficult to get out of a tree well without help. Stay safe while snowshoeing or skiing in the trees—don't get too close to trees, always go with a partner, and keep your partner in sight.

Terrain Traps

A terrain trap is a landscape feature that increases the chances of injury in an avalanche. They include gullies, creek beds, drainages, abrupt slope transitions, and other features that cause avalanche debris to pile up. Even in a small avalanche, a terrain trap can leave a person buried under deep snow. There are hundreds of small, innocent looking gullies in the park. Before you travel in or near one, think about the consequences: even a small avalanche can be catastrophic there.

Garfield_lake view_Greg Funderburk_resized
Skiing on Garfield Peak

Photo by Greg Funderburk

Last updated: November 16, 2020

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7

Crater Lake, OR 97604


541 594-3000

Contact Us