How to avoid them, and what to do if you get caught in a snow slide

The very best way to survive an avalanche is to never go where avalanches are possible. But that’s not always realistic. We could stay in flatland areas, or even move to the tropics, but you’d be missing out on the real beauty of the season. Those snow-covered mountains call to many of us. When the steep slopes are robed in winter white, it’s a beautiful time to get out there. And if we understand not only our peril, but the right things to do if trouble starts, we can limit our risks and still enjoy our outdoor time in winter. And if an avalanche breaks loose under foot, you can use these techniques to survive it.

—Abandon all your equipment. Skis, poles, snowboards, snowshoes, and even snowmobiles will only get in your way, or hit you in the churning sea of snow.

—If possible, try to shelter behind rocks, trees or vehicles. Crouch down and turn your back toward the avalanche.

—If caught in the open, try to “swim” through the snow and try to avoid hitting stationary objects. Snow doesn’t exactly move the same way water moves, but there are similarities.

—Be aware of dangerous terrain features, like cliffs, boulder fields, groves of trees or any other hazard that the avalanche could ram you into or drive you over.

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—As the snow nears you, take in a deep breath and cover your nose and mouth.

—Thrust, kick and swim to stay on the surface. Ride on top of the snow, and attempt to get to the edge of the avalanche.

—Do not yell or open your mouth as the snow hits you, it can fill your mouth, throat and nostrils.


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