How to survive an avalanche is a hot safety topic because the snow pack has climbed so dramatically in the last five weeks throughout the West. Think you have to be enjoying active sports in mountainous terrain to wander into an avalanche zone? In early January, 2007, two cars were swept off the highway while going over Berthoud Pass in Colorado. The USA Today article describes how everyone in both cars survived and only one person was seriously hurt. One driver, who is a longtime backcountry skier, described how he made air pockets as the car stopped more than 100 feet below the road they had been on moments before.
In recent years, the number of snowmobilers, backcountry skiers and winter hikers dying in avalanches has jumped. It's still early in the 2010/2011 winter season but there's been so much snow in the Rockies and the Sierras that avalanche danger is high. Fatalities have already been reported, and avalanche experts are afraid there will be more because there's been so much snow within the last four weeks. Resorts from Steamboat to Jackson Hole (at resorts slopes within ski area boundaries are avalanche controlled) are already reporting from 230- to 300 inches of snow.
Learn Techniques to Help Survive an Avalanche
Several times every winter, one reads about skiers, snowboarders or snowmobilers who have been caught in avalanches. Some survive, in part because they are properly equipped with beacons, probes and knowledge. Others don't! If you're heading into mountains where there could be slides, take time to learn about avalanche safety. It might just help you survive. According to the U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center, the majority of avalanches victims are caught in are triggered by themselves or others in their party.
Let the Experts Teach You Avalanche SafetyLet experts teach you avalanche safety. The following websites are excellent sources to learn more about the power of avalanches and tips for surviving, if you're caught in a slide. Many of these organizations offer avalanche safety information sessions and classes in their regions.
- The U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center is a good place to start. Various web pages cover the basics, including the type of terrain, snow pack, wind and weather that trigger avalanches. There's also a list of links to regional websites.
- The American Institute for Avalanche Rescue has links to information about courses throughout the US that offer knowledge and tools you'll need to manage your risk in avalanche terrain.
- The Utah Avalanche Center Web site has the answers to some very common questions.
- Avalanche.org lists the avalanche centers in mountainous areas in the U.S. and in Canadian provinces.
- The Canadian Avalanche Society has an online course called Avalanche First Response. It's a smart way to learning more about protecting yourself.
- Colorado's Rockies are among the most popular mountains for skiers, snowboarders, winter walkers and snowmobilers who like to explore the backcountry. The Colorado Avalanche Center offers regular forecasts and educational programs throughout the state.
Tips from Ski Partrollers for Inbounds Extreme Skiing & Snowboarding at Resorts
Click on Top Resorts With Inbounds Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Terrain to find more places for expert skiers and snowboarders to enjoy backcountry-style terrain inbounds at ski resorts. If you're not sure what backcountry skiing is outside ski resort ropes, visit What is Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding.