How to survive an avalanche

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Today we bring you another survival article, this time, on how to survive an avalanche.

If you have a fondness for skiing or snowboarding, you should know these types of dangerous situations in which you can be involved. For this reason, it is recommended that before starting a journey through the snowy mountain you do a survival course.

What is an avalanche?

Technically, an avalanche is a large mass of snow that slides down the side of a mountain, carrying everything in its path. These are caused when meteorological changes cause a drop in the density of a layer of snow or ice that is between the snow on the bottom and that of the surface. In this way, the snow layer on the surface begins to slide.

How to prepare for a possible avalanche?

Request a survival course: If you are going to do a trek or a scheduled group activity, you can request that they give you a survival course. They will explain what equipment you should bring, how to help another colleague who may be buried, they will teach you how to keep calm, etc.

Wear the correct equipment: the important thing is to always carry a transmitter (ARVA), a probe and a shovel that allows a fast self-healing of a partner. Some skiers even carry anti-avalanche backpacks (which can inflate and give you a better chance of staying afloat in an avalanche).

Don’t be alone: As we say, equipment can help you save your life, but also that of your teammates. Thanks to the ARVA you will be able to locate your partner, with the probe you will determine how far under the snow he is and with the shovel you will be able to get him out of there. For all this, try to be accompanied.


How to act before an avalanche?

1. Whenever you can, run away from the avalanche. It may sound very typical, but it is the first thing we should try. Sometimes, we are very far from the avalanche and we see it descend and although it is faster than us, we can try to avoid it by running to one side or the other. It can also catch us at the top of the mountain, so we should try to climb as high as possible so that it does not drag us from that position.

2. Get rid of equipment that can hinder your movements. Of course, keep your probe, ARVA and shovel with you, as at the very least you will need to communicate your position to a partner. But it can take off your skis, board, and anything else that can make you feel more treated in the snow and slow down your movements.

3. Don’t ‘swim’. It used to be advisable nothing about snow as if it were a river, but snow behaves differently than water. Apparently, in an avalanche there are ‘granular flows’ in which the elements of higher density remain afloat. It is possible that if you remain calm under the snow, you will end up on the surface or a few inches from it. If you swim, you may only get more sinking.

4. Find the surface. When everything seems calm, raise one hand and search the surface allowing those who are looking for you to see your hand sticking out. If you see that you are a few inches away, try to surface to facilitate breathing and rescue. If you can’t, save energy.

5. Create an air pocket. With the other hand, create a hole in the snow in front of your mouth and nose and place your elbow inside. This way you will be able to breathe up your arm and you will not introduce such cold air into your body, nor will snow enter your mouth.

6. Stay calm and wait for rescue. Your ARVA will be emitting signals and at any moment a receiver will be able to locate your position and go for you. It is crucial that the rescue is fast as the chances of staying alive begin to decline 20 minutes after being buried under the snow.


So now you know, caution, do not go alone, find out about the avalanche possibilities in the place where you are, always be accompanied by a professional and do not forget these tips.

Picture: Washington State Dept of Transportation, Al_HikesAZ, Peter guthrie

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