A GUIDE has been issued to help winter sports enthusiasts avoid avalanches, just over a year after four people died in one incident.

Last January four climbers died in Glencoe after being swept down 300ft, and this winter alone there have been 179 avalanches, with six in the last 48 hours on Scotland's hills, according to the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service.

The new free guide Be Avalanche Aware! is funded by sportscotland and designed to help those on the mountains avoid danger.

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To launch the guide, representatives from across the mountaineering sector gathered at Glenmore Lodge National Outdoor Training Centre, near Aviemore.

The illustrated advice in the publication offers practical tips and helps with decision-making and covers pre-trip planning, the trip itself and decisions to be taken at specific points. For each section the guide considers avalanche hazard and weather, the abilities of the party and the terrain.

It stresses the importance of forward planning, flexibility and attention to changing circumstances.

Ross Purves, chairman of the Snow and Avalanche Foundation for Scotland, said: "The guide is an excellent resource, which will help mountain-goers set off better informed, and emphasises the importance of making and re-evaluating decisions before and during the day out in the hills."

Bob Kinnaird, principal of Glenmore Lodge, said: "Avoiding avalanche hazards is an essential skill for all those who venture into the mountains in winter.

"This new guide provides an excellent tool that will add to the comprehensive avalanche education and information available through training courses and online forecasts."