MOUNTAINEERS and skiers have been warned to be aware of the risk of avalanches after a massive winter snowfall.

Temperatures in the higher areas in the Highlands will remain below freezing over the weekend and safety experts are warning winter sports enthusiasts to be aware of 'terrain traps'.

These traps are geographical features which accumulate snow when it has nowhere else to run, such as a depression or flattening in the hillside like a gully or corrie basin.

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This in turn can increase the danger of avalanches and the level of damage they cause.

Heather Morning, mountain safety adviser with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS), said that the Coire na Tulaich on Buachaille Etive Mor, which has a history of burying people in avalanche debris, was an example of one of these traps.

Ms Morning said those going out on the mountainside should check weather and avalanche reports, such as the Mountain Weather Information Service or the SportScotland Avalanche Information Service.

She said: "Anyone heading out into the hills, whether to climb, walk or ski, should take a close look at the weather forecast in order to plan a suitable route."

She also warned of the ­particular risk of these 'terrain traps' when there is such a high volume of snow on the mountains.

She added: "The key is good route choice. Plan ahead before you leave your living room and study the terrain on the map for your intended route. Always be flexible and have alternative plans. Stay high - choose ridge lines and broad shoulders.

"In times of high avalanche risk avoid gullies, abrupt slope transitions and corrie basins - and remember: it might not be you that triggers the avalanche, you could just be in the firing line."

Seven years ago, a climber cheated death in an avalanche which swept him and his father hundreds of feet down the mountain at Coire na Tulaich. The pair, from Nottingham, were carried 300ft after being caught in an avalanche near the summit.

In 1995, three people were killed in an avalanche while descending the mountain.

Last winter, ­mountaineering in Scotland encountered a particularly bad year after a spate of accidents and deaths. These included the deaths of four friends who were killed in an avalanche on Bidean Nam Bian in Glencoe.

Although snow is expected to fall and settle on higher ground, forecasters say it will be rainy elsewhere in Scotland in the next few days.

A Met Office spokeswoman said the weather would clear for some patches of sunshine on Sunday afternoon, but this will end on Tuesday, making the rest of the week wet and windy once again.