Avalanche DOs and DON'Ts

Avalanche DOs and DON'Ts

Cunningham, Terry
facebook twitter email Print This

Avalanche safety is all about information and preparation. To maximize your chances of staying safe in avalanche country, we’ve compiled a list of avalanche “do’s and don’ts.”

DO:

  • Visit the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) at mtavalanche.com to read their daily avalanche advisory and become a fan on Facebook to receive their videos and photos.
  • Educate yourself by taking an avalanche safety class. Better yet, bring your partner along too. The GNFAC website has a list of all courses in the area.
  • Carry an avalanche beacon, shovel, probes, and first-aid gear whenever you’re in the backcountry or side-country.
  • Always travel with a partner and always ski slopes one at a time.
  • Practice with your beacon by visiting a beacon park such as the one at Beall Park. A person has an 85% chance of surviving if they are dug up in 15 minutes; it drops to 40% after 30 minutes.
  • Carry an inclinometer so you know when you’re in avalanche terrain (slopes steeper than 30 degrees).
  • Know the avalanche training of your skiing or snowmobiling partners; you don’t want to trust your rescue to a “weak link” in the group.
  • If you are caught in an avalanche, fight like hell; if you are watching your partner, note their last seen point because this is where you will begin the search.

DON’T:

  • Assume that a well-tracked ski slope won’t avalanche.
  • Think that side-country skiing is any safer than in the remote backcountry. It’s not.
  • Leave a buried avalanche victim in order to alert rescuers. YOU are the rescuer and time is ticking away. Keep digging.
  • Let peer pressure influence your better judgment. If you’re not comfortable with the risks being taken by your skiing partners, let them know in no uncertain terms.
  • Assume that you are safe because you’re skiing or snowmobiling on flat land. Be aware that slopes above you can slide when avalanche conditions are ripe.
  • Ignore warning signs like snowpack “whumps,” shooting cracks, or signs of avalanche activity on adjoining slopes. Turn around and live to ski or ride another day.
Photo courtsey of Doug Chabot
© 2000-2017 Outside Media Group, LLC
Powered by BitForge