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How to Survive an Avalanche | Emergency Preparedness

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Many unexpected things can happen during your winter adventure and knowing how to survive an avalanche might save your life! Make sure you are prepared for these scenarios.

Here are some tips you need to know in dealing with winter emergencies and disasters such as snow slides!

Related: Walking On Ice Safety Tips | Winter Survival Safety Tips

How to Survive an Avalanche | Preparing for the Unexpected

How to Prepare for an Avalanche

1. Take an Avalanche Survival Class

skiers group walk | how to prepare for an avalanche

Attending an avalanche survival workshop might not be the fun activity you’ve been waiting for in your ski trip, but it’s definitely a life-saving affair. Learning the basics and must-haves will save you from an icy tight spot!

If you can’t fit a physical class into your schedule, you can opt for webinars and other online lessons. There are also tons of helpful tutorials on the Internet to help you get started.

2. Read Up

man reading book located on hill | how to prepare for an avalanche

Aside from virtual training, reading books on how to survive an avalanche can supply you with all the information you need. Some destinations offer pamphlets and brochures for tourists, so make sure to read up!

When you are reading, look for tips on what to bring, what to expect, and what to do during these emergency situations. Researching about the do’s and don’ts should be your top priority.

3. Prepare an Emergency Bag

splitboard halves trekking sticks backpack sky | how to prepare for an avalanche

You may have sufficient food, adequate water, and a first aid kit—but those supplies aren’t enough to keep you going if you want to make it out alive from an avalanche.

The most important thing you need to have in your emergency gear is a beacon transceiver. This will help you call for help in the event that you get buried in an avalanche.

A shovel will also come in handy for digging out snow, as well as trekking poles to mark your trails. You might be burdened with a heavy bag, but that’s definitely better than rummaging through nothing!

4. Check the Forecast

avalanche danger sign kicking horse ski | how to prepare for an avalanche

Before you head out on any trip, make it a habit to always check the forecast. Being able to know ahead of time can help you reschedule your plans to a much safer date.

Forecasts can sometimes turn out to be wrong since they are not 100% accurate. Nevertheless, they’re good indicators for securing your safety so you won’t end up being caught in a snow storm.

5. Observe Your Surroundings

snowshoe hiker on koli | how to prepare for an avalanche

Checking your surroundings is one of the best precautions to follow in learning how to survive an avalanche. Looking around can guide you toward safer routes and sturdy shelter.

If you see any signs of a previous or recent avalanche, it is strongly recommended to get yourself out of harm’s way and postpone the skiing.

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How to Recover From an Avalanche

6. Flee to the Sides of the Avalanche

skier skiing downhill high mountains during | how to prepare for an avalanche

Escaping is your body’s automatic response against imminent danger, but you need to be alert on where you are running off to. It may be difficult to outrun an avalanche, so avoid moving in a straight line.

Instead, flee to the sides to prevent getting yourself buried in the snow. You can also go uphill or jump toward a slope.

7. Reach and Grab

snow covered mountain under blue sky during daytime | how to prepare for an avalanche

Got yourself caught by the snow slide? Keep an eye out and reach for something big and sturdy, like a tree or a boulder. Major avalanches might crush these along the way, but smaller ones can spare you some to hold on to.

Regardless, grab whatever you can to help you slow down. Your goal is to be rooted in one spot and avoid getting dragged all the way.

8. Keep One Arm Up

man covered snow avalanche stretches out | how to prepare for an avalanche

In the event that you can no longer reach or grab, your best bet is to keep at least one arm up as you slide down. This will help your friends to pull you up or a rescue team to find you among the snow pile.

During these cases, wearing eye-catching gloves will save your life. The reflective variety can also be very useful during the night time or if it’s dark out.

9. Swim Up

freerider buried fresh snow turning jumping | how to prepare for an avalanche

Did you know that swimming is a vital skill in knowing how to survive an avalanche? Once you are deep into the snow, you need to prevent yourself from being trapped any further.

“Swimming up” will get you to the top of the avalanche, where it is much safer. You can try other aggressive motions with your arms and feet, as long as they can lead you to the surface.

10. Make Room to Breathe

freerider using avalanche beacon find person | how to prepare for an avalanche

The last thing you want to happen to you during this situation is to run out of air to breathe. Asphyxiation is known to be one of the most common causes of avalanche-related deaths, so do your best to stay alert.

Moments before you get buried, keep one arm up and use the other one to cup a hand over your mouth. Once you are underground, move that hand around to create some space. This will give you enough room to allow airflow until help arrives.

You can also do the avalanche spit trick; just continue spitting until you have a pocket of air to breathe. More importantly, your spit can help you determine which way is up and down by gravity and the direction it follows.

11. Remain Calm

family snowboarders mother kid playing | how to prepare for an avalanche

It’s natural to panic, but it’s also the worst thing you can do during such an emergency. Work on your breathing and give yourself enough time to calm your nerves. Being calm while responding quickly is the key to keeping yourself alive!

Watch this video by Tech Insider for some helpful tips on how to survive an avalanche:

Planning your winter getaway is a lot more fun when you know you are fully prepared for the worst-case scenarios. Learning how to survive an avalanche is one of the most important things you need to know before you head out, so make sure to get yourself trained and informed.

Do you have more tips on how to survive an avalanche you want to add to this list? Share it with us in the comments section below!

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