Avalanche Preparedness

Snowy mountains are too wonderful to avoid, but there’s danger behind their beauty. If you’re planning a ski trip or live near a mountain that receives snow, learn how to avoid and react to avalanches. Preparing will increase your chances of making it out alive.

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Avalanche Facts

Avalanches can weigh hundreds of thousands of tons and move at over 100 miles per hour.

By the time even the smallest avalanche reaches the end of the slope, it has the collective momentum of 400 freight trains.

About 100,000 avalanches occur every year in the US. Sorry, ski bunnies!

Between 1950 and 2000, over 1,100 people died due to avalanches in the US. On average, 28 deaths are reported annually.

How to Prepare for an Avalanche

  • Create an avalanche preparedness kit that includes your TSP (transceiver, shovel, and probe).
  • Never head onto the mountain without checking conditions and asking for local advice.
  • Plan your routes with the help of a trained guide or avalanche expert.
  • Travel in groups of three or four, and stay alert to changes on the mountain.
  • Jump above the fracture if you see an avalanche detaching from the side of the mountain.
  • Travel diagonally to the side if the avalanche is behind you; the strongest force will be in the center.
  • If you can’t hold onto a tree and get caught in the flow, lose your nonessential gear and start swimming to stay on top of the slide.
  • If you get buried, spit to figure out which way is up. If you can’t swim out easily, try to uncover one arm and then stay still.
  • Work on your own avalanche training courses until you’re the expert!
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What Not to Do During an Avalanche

Here are some snowslide tips for you, if you’re better with “DON’Ts” than “DOs”

Don’t Ski Fresh and Steep

Hills steeper than 35 degrees are not safe for 48 hours after heavy snowfall. Avalanches are likely in heavy, fresh snow on steep slopes.

Don’t Forget Your Compass

North-facing slopes in the US have more avalanches due to less stable snowpack. South-facing slopes are more dangerous during the spring thaw.

Don’t Drop Your Cell Phone

Your phone and transceiver are key gear. Emergency calls use any available signal, so they could still go through if you have no service.