In case of an avalanche – 10 tips

Caution Avalanche Danger. Tips to survive an avalanche

Being ready and knowing how to survive an avalanche is a must to enjoy your wildest mountain adventures. No one wants to face an avalanche, but as they say… Better safe than sorry!

During our Heli-skiing and backcountry adventures we went through several rounds of avalanche training and we now want to share those learnings with you. Below you can find our 10 tips on how to survive an avalanche as well as the recommended equipment to have with you when venturing off piste.

“In case of an avalanche” checklist

  1. Shout: When you notice the terrain starts moving and you or some of your companions are in it, don’t think – shout. Let people know immediately what’s happening, you will have greater chances of skiing out of it. Your first instinct will guide you, start skiing and head to the sides of the snow front.
  2. Drop: If you can’t ski out of it, remove your poles immediately and if you can remove your skis as well.
  3. Swim: If you fall, start swimming (literally) and when you feel the avalanche is slowing down swim faster, heading to the surface.
  4. Prepare to stop: Right before the avalanche stops, bring one arm in front of your face and tuck your mouth under your elbow to protect it from the snow and help create some breathing space. Stick your other arm straight up, you might really be close to the surface and a glove sticking out might be all it takes for a companion to locate you.
  5. Count: If you witness an avalanche or manage to ski out of it and are in a group, the first thing once it stops is to do a headcount. Before heading out for the day, you need to memorize  the number of people that are with you including the guides.
  6. Signal: Whoever in the group has a Radio should get on it and communicate location, name of the guide/group, count of missing people and ask for instructions.
  7. Exercise caution: Look around to verify if conditions are safe to start a search or if you should rather wait for search and rescue teams to intervene and help.
  8. Visual check: If it’s safe and there are people missing, it’s time to start the search. Visually search if you see any signs of your missing companions (don’t step on the beacon if you see an arm sticking out of the snow!).
  9. Receive: Make sure your search companions all switch their transceivers from send to receive (and check them all!).
  10. Search: Start searching! For more information on how to use the transceiver, you can read our Transceiver 101 guide.

We recommend to also read our post on safety equipment for backcountry skiing. Learn more about the recommended gear as well as our 101 guides on beacons, probes and shovels.

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