If you spend time in the mountains, would you know what to do if you got caught in an avalanche? Avalanches injure thousands of people—and kill more than 150—each year.
Don’t be a statistic. Learn what you need to do to survive an avalanche.
The following tips will help you build awareness of avalanche safety and help you survive in case you get caught in an avalanche.
1- Be prepared.
Before you head out into the snow, be aware of the snow conditions. Thin snow cover in early winter can become weak and unstable as heavier snowfall comes down on top. This instability increases the chances of an avalanche. If you can avoid it, don’t go out when the avalanche risk is high. Carry an avalanche beacon to help rescuers locate you if you get buried in an avalanche.
2- Travel in a group.
If you’re spending time in the snow, don’t do it alone. Travel with a group of people and make sure they are familiar with avalanche conditions and rescue.
3- Seek shelter.
If you’re caught in an avalanche, seek shelter wherever possible. Avalanches are powerful and send tons of snow quickly down a mountain, covering everything in its path. Crouch down, turn away from the avalanche and cover your mouth and nose to prevent snow from getting in. Brace yourself against the impact.
4- Stay on top of the snow.
If you are buried in an avalanche, you need to get to the top. Depending on the severity of the avalanche, this may be easier said than done. You need to act quickly to stay on the top of the snow. Move your arms in a backstroke to stay on top of the snow.
5- If you’re buried, create an airway.
“If it comes over you and buries your face, you want to fight, you want to swing, you want to punch.” Sue Anderson of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue states. “You want to fight as hard as you can to stay on top of that snow. When the snow stops, it settles down as hard as concrete. You have about a second to punch to get that airway done.”
6- Remain calm.
This step may seem impossible when you’ve been buried in an avalanche. However, this step is the most important one for your survival. If you panic, you run the risk of making the situation worse.
7- Dig yourself out and call for help.
Your survival depends on your ability to get yourself on top of the snow. Do whatever you can to dig yourself out of the snow and call out for help.