Avalanche Sign
  • Toss your poles away as soon as you feel the slope sliding (you should never wear pole straps in avalanche terrain).
  • Try to ski toward the nearest edge of the slide zone (never try to outrun an avalanche).
  • Keep your pack on. A pack both protects your spine and increases your volume—and you want to be as big as possible. (Think of what happens when you shake a bag of granola—the big chunks stay on top.) You may also need your gear to survive.
  • Don’t cry out, or you risk having your mouth fill with snow. You should always have your partners watching from safe positions when in avalanche terrain, so they will already know about the slide.
  • Conventional wisdom may say you should try to swim to stay on top of the flow, but Dale Atkins, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, says it’s more important to have your hands in front of your face, where they will be ready to clear an air pocket during the critical seconds between when the slide stops and the snow solidifies.
  • If you have reason to think you’re near the surface, thrust an arm toward the light. A glove protruding from the snow is the first thing that your rescuers will look for.
  • When the slide stops, try to stay calm and get your breathing under control


Avalanche stats

  • Researchers studying the survival rates of Swiss avalanche victims during the 1980s found that the probability of survival was 92 per cent if the victim was rescued within 15 minutes of burial. After 30 minutes, the survival rate dropped to 30 per cent.
  • On average in Canada, 11 people die annually in avalanches. In the winter of 2002-2003, there were 29 deaths.
  • Roughly 90 per cent of fatal avalanches are triggered by someone in the victims’ own party.