Snow: Home of the Avalanche

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Photo courtesy of

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With many students going to go hit the slopes this holiday break, the goal should be for as few of them to die as possible.  That being said, here are five tips to not die in an avalanche while out skiing or snowboarding this season:

  • Know your enemy – Avalanches are a thing that happen. For some people that are less accustomed to shredding, avalanches seem like one of those events that could happen, but don’t ever actually occur in real life.  But that’s not true. Avalanches are a real, constant danger, and knowing what you’re up against can be your best defense against them.
  • Acknowledge that it could happen to you – Not just some random guy in a news story, but to YOU, or someone in your group. Avalanches don’t play favorites.  They can happen to anyone.  Knowing that you aren’t invincible can also be a good mindset to be in.
  • Do your homework – Even before you go on such a trip, there are things like weather forecasts, and, more specifically, avalanche forecasts that can tell you what the conditions are going to be like. If the forecast says avalanche risk is high, you might want to postpone that excursion.  Also, avoid any terrain that has recently had fresh snowfall, as these are the prime spots for avalanches to occur before the snow melts slightly and becomes stable.
  • Bring your toys with you – Don’t go anywhere, even just for one run, without bringing the proper supplies with you. A beacon, a probe, and a shovel are all recommended.  Don’t just have them, but make sure you know how to use them so you can either help save yourself or someone else if disaster strikes.
  • Try to rescue yourself – So in spite of all the preparation and tools in the world, there’s always still a chance of being caught in an avalanche. If that happens, there are still things you can do to keep yourself alive, because no one can offer aid to you faster than you can for yourself.  If you are caught in an avalanche, either try to grab the side of a tree to hold on to, or “swim” (as you would in water) to try and stay on the surface of the slide rather than being buried in it.  Once a slide stops, it settles really quickly, so try and clear an air pocket around yourself if you are buried, and stick a hand up out of the snow if you can.  This will make you last longer, and make you easier for rescuers to find.

So be safe out there, and be sure to enjoy some snow shredding this holiday season!

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