Avalanches occur suddenly, damaging houses and injuring people. Many of the avalanches that occurred in Yamanashi Prefecture in 2014 took place in locations where avalanches are uncommon. We now know that many of these were "slab avalanches," in which a slab of surface layer snow is dislodged. How and why did these slab avalanches occur? We'll look at the latest efforts to better understand the underlying mechanisms, and the steps being taken to save lives.