While even the most specialized individuals are at risk in avalanche terrain, there are ways to increase your odds of survival.
Here are five survival instructions to help you stay alive in this situation
- Educate yourself with professional avalanche classes, and practice what you learn.
Instructors can teach you how precipitation, the wind, and temperature play roles in snow stability. Another important factor that they can teach you is how terrain factors like slope steepness, orientation, and underlying rock affect conditions.
You should learn:
- To dig pits.
- Perform other tests of snowpack stability.
- Which types of routes to avoid.
Assessing all these risks can help you make the right decisions that can keep you out of avalanches.
It’s smart to take classes because you learn how to use standard safety equipment, like beacons, probes, and shovels. You can use them to locate buried victims and dig them out when the worst occurs.
- Put your knowledge to use and know what can happen to you.
Over the last ten winters, an average of 27 people died in avalanches each winter in the United States.
There are no reports of most non-fatal avalanche incidents. Therefore, is no way to determine the number of people caught or buried in avalanches each year.
Most of the people trapped in these tragic accidents are the experienced skiers, snowboarders, or snowmobilers with avalanche awareness.
The conclusion here is having the knowledge to make good decisions doesn’t help unless you put it to use.
You should change your evaluations based on the conditions throughout the day.
Be realistic and realize that you have to return no matter how tempting is to do a final lap.
Respect slack country and side country dangers. Both places can harbor the same avalanche hazards. Treat them with respect and don’t relax your evaluations.
- Inform about places with the risk of avalanches.
A great place to start is Checking local avalanche forecasts, available from the American Avalanche Association.
Pay attention to the recent weather and avoid avalanche terrain within 24 hours of a storm.
Avalanche danger starts on the climb, so stay to low-angle edges or near dense trees grounds when possible. Move from one safe area to another.
If you must cross dangerous terrain, spread your team out. Avoid exposing all the group to danger at the same time.
Make turns in the safer areas and head down one at a time while watching your partners carefully.
Do some homework on your route:
- Inform if there are likely slide paths or terrain traps.
- Be aware what are the consequences of a slide.
- It is wise to know if there is a clean run out or is a cliff below you.
- Take with you the adequate survival items.
Carry with you a beacon, probe, and shovel and learn how to use them. Teach your partners how to use them so they can help you too if disaster strikes.
With modern gear, you can decrease the occurrence of injuries.
- Wearable avalanche airbag systems are made to keep you on top of a slide rather than buried in it. They increase the odds of survival significantly.
- Some systems have breathing mouthpieces that can stave off asphyxiation for buried victims and buy more time for rescue.
Don’t forget the helmet. It will help to prevent injury once an avalanche occurs.
- Struggle and hope for your life.
It takes just a few seconds for sliding snow to reach a high speed. If you are under a snow “wave”, try to:
- Escape, grab a tree or struggle hard to stay near the surface.
- Make some space to breathe around your face and stick a hand upward and out of the snow if possible.
- Dug out within 15 minutes’ and you have a 90 percent chance of survival.
Those people that survive are often miles from roads and hours from the arrival of any help.
Therefore, you and your team should establish an evacuation plan and take care to have equipment for winter travel that includes warm clothes, food, medical supplies, and other gear that can help you stay safe until help arrives.
The primary information here is: it doesn’t matter if you do everything right, you still be caught in an avalanche. Therefore, you should always be prepared.
The wise things to do are educating you and making good decisions. If you’re practicing this sport, you’ll have to accept that you can’t be 100 percent safe all the time.
Have you ever been trapped in an avalanche? Do you feel prepared in case of that will happen? Share your thoughts in the comments section bellow.