Winter recreation is increasing in popularity, and every year people more expose themselves to the hazard of being caught, injured and perhaps killed in an avalanche. But is there anything you can do about it? Well, contrary to some opinions, avalanches are NOT random, in fact over 90% of injuries and deaths from avalanches are caused by the people who are hurt by them.
Before you head into the backcountry this winter, you need to know what you can do to protect yourself. Take an avalanche skills training course.
- The CAC and the Justice Institute of BC have an online course called the CAC Avalanche First Response Training Program. this course is meant to be a tiny entry into avalanche skills training (below). The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) has a listing of certified providers of their industry-standard "Avalanche Skills Training" course
Know the current avalanche hazard:
- read Avalanche Bulletin for your area
- in the United States, use the CSAC
- know the Current Weather and the forecast
- use the Avaluator
- use the Online Trip Planner for common ski trip areas
Have the right equipment and know how to use it:
- Avalanche Beacon : allows you to find and be found up to 100% faster than otherwise
- Avalanche Probe : further speeds up the time it takes to locate a buried person
- Avalanche Shovel : the ONLY way you're going to dig someone out! (Avalanche debris sets up like concrete!!!)
- Carry the 10 essentials
Plan your trip:
- Tell someone where you are going, and when you will be back
- Fill out a trip plan Use your common sense:
- If you see an avalanche, that means you can trigger one
- Ski areas are controlled by ski patrollers with explosives, they are safe. Don't ski out of bounds, ski patrollers don't control those areas.
- Avalanche hazard is worst toward the end of a storm and just after it.
- If it's snowing more that 2cm/hour, avalanche hazard is increasing (getting worse).
- High wind makes avalanche hazard worse. Do your Research:
- Buy and read Avalanche Books
- Practice your skills,
- self-rescue skills with the beacon, probe and shovel
- avalanche assessment skills
- Attend seminars and read magazines for the latest research in the field.