Winter Survival: Survive An Avalanche

An excerpt from The Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook

Yes, it’s fun to get outside in the winter, but these outdoor adventures are not without hazard – especially if you’re in an avalanche area. There are many signs that can help you avoid becoming a human popsicle in these dangerous zones. Two of the biggest issues are recent heavy snowfall and the mountain’s incline. Avalanche risks increase after a heavy snowfall. The worst time of all is when snowy weather is followed by warm weather or rain—and then cold, snowy conditions return. If an avalanche breaks loose under foot, use these techniques to survive.

  • Abandon all your equipment. Skis, poles, snowboards, snowshoes and even snowmobiles will only get in your way, or hit you in the churning sea of snow.
  • If possible, try to shelter behind rocks, trees or vehicles. Crouch down and turn your back toward the avalanche.
  • Snow doesn’t exactly move the same way water moves, but there are similarities. If caught in the open, try to “swim” through the snow and try to avoid hitting stationary objects.
  • Be aware of dangerous terrain features, like cliffs, boulder fields, groves of trees or any other hazard that the avalanche could ram you into or drive you over.
  • As the snow nears you, take in a deep breath and cover your nose and mouth.
  • Thrust, kick and swim to stay on the surface. Ride on top of the snow, and attempt to get to the edge of the avalanche.
  • Do not yell or open your mouth as the snow hits you, it can fill your mouth, throat and nostrils.
  • As the avalanche slows, bring your hands and arms up to your face and make an air space.

These tips, and many more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For AnythingThe Hunting and Gathering Survival ManualHow To Survive Anything, and available now, Tim’s latest release, The Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook.

Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch

And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine

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