Some landslides mobilize into flows, while others slide and deposit material immediately down slope. An index based on initial dry density and fine-grained content of soil predicted failure mode of 96 landslide initiation sites in Oregon and Colorado with 79% accuracy. These material properties can be used to identify potential sources for debris flows and for slides. Field data suggest that loose soils can evolve from dense soils that dilate upon shearing. The method presented herein to predict failure mode is most applicable for shallow (depth <5 m), well-graded soils (coefficient of uniformity >8), with few to moderate fines (fine-grained content <18%), and with liquid limits <40.