Ski Out of an Avalanche

Ski Out of an Avalanche
An avalanche brings tons of snow rolling down a slope, often reaching speeds between 60 and 80 miles an hour within the first five seconds. It isn't always possible, but you can try to ski out of an avalanche under the right conditions and with some quick thinking.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Warn others around you as quickly as possible.
Step 2
Look around quickly, and evaluate your position. Figure out if you are on top or near the top of the moving snowpack and or below it.
Step 3
Try moving to the side of the slope across the top of the moving snowpack, but only if this is your location. Make this decision quickly, and move as fast as you can. This is a risky move - determine as quickly as possible if it's the right one.
Step 4
Find a visual spot over to one side of the slope, if you are below the top of the moving snowpack. You want something that is far enough away from the path of the avalanche, but close enough you can get there quickly.
Step 5
Point your skis or snowboard downhill. You can ski out of the avalanche in this direction for a short distance - just enough to pick up speed.
Step 6
Turn toward the side after you've picked up speed, and ski straight off the slope toward your visual point. Don't stop until you think you are out of the path of the moving snow.

Tips & Warnings

Understand where you are skiing, the dangers and the snow conditions. Weather centers monitor and report avalanche conditions on a daily basis during the season in many mountain areas of the United States, Canada and Europe. Know what's going on. Learn the basics of survival before setting out, in case the snow catches you. For instance, put your hands in front of your face as the snow covers you to create a breathing space. Don't ski alone in any area where avalanche conditions are possible. Use an electronic locator in your equipment, if skiing in avalanche country. Train in avalanche safety, if you spend a lot of time in avalanche-prone areas. Remember, snow doesn't build up as much on a very steep incline. The ones that are not quite so steep and often form the favorite spots for experts are more prone to avalanches. Learn the myths of avalanches. They actually aren't set off by noise. It's a combination of snow depth, the snow pack, the temperature and usually human activity that start them. Back-country skiing is often associated with avalanches, but the right conditions cause them on regular ski hills as well.
These steps give the general idea behind how to ski out of an avalanche. They aren't substitutes for good training, equipment and knowledge of the ski area. Most avalanche experts warn that attempting to ski out of way often doesn't work. They also agree, though, that it's worth a try.

Article Written By Melissa Haveman

Melissa Haveman has been mountain biking, cross country skiing, and hiking all over the Midwest, as well as other parts of the world, for many years. She particularly enjoys writing about hiking with her dogs for various websites and regional publications

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