Six Tips for Surviving an Avalanche


Plot­ting your descent into a white, untouched can­vas is a feel­ing like noth­ing else. But there’s one con­cern that keeps every respon­si­ble back­coun­try ski­er or snow­board­er hum­ble before the drop in: the threat of avalanche. That’s why it’s impor­tant to be aware of snow con­di­tions and what to do if trou­ble begins. Here’s a list of six tips that might just save your life if you have the mis­for­tune of expe­ri­enc­ing an avalanche. 

11. Move Sideways
The cen­ter of an avalanche is where the snow moves the fastest, mak­ing it the most dan­ger­ous place for you to be. Whether the avalanche begins direct­ly beneath your feet or above you, the best strat­e­gy to avoid get­ting caught is to move side­ways. It’s impor­tant to begin mov­ing imme­di­ate­ly after you notice the signs of an avalanche, because the quick­er you get out of the way the high­er your chances of sur­vival. Just make sure you don’t move so quick­ly that you lose your footing!

2. Jump Upslope
Most avalanch­es that you expe­ri­ence ski­ing or snow­board­ing will be caused by, well, you. If this should hap­pen, the snow will begin to fall direct­ly beneath you. The best strat­e­gy to avoid get­ting caught is to quick­ly jump ups­lope. If you are able to move beyond the frac­ture line fast enough you might avoid get­ting caught in the slide. Be care­ful with this one. It’s unlike­ly that your brain will process what’s hap­pen­ing fast enough for you to react in time to jump out of the way of a start­ing avalanche.

3. Car­ry an Avalanche Beacon
An avalanche bea­con (also known as an avalanche trans­ceiv­er) great­ly increas­es your chances of sur­vival once you have been buried. Most bea­cons trans­mit a radio fre­quen­cy to a receiv­er or anoth­er bea­con. This enables your res­cuers to pin­point exact­ly where you are under­neath the snow before they start dig­ging. If you are ski­ing off-piste it is absolute­ly essen­tial to car­ry an avalanche beacon.

24. Grab Something
This obvi­ous-sound­ing tac­tic great­ly depends on the size of the avalanche, but in small­er, less pow­er­ful sit­u­a­tions, it can save your life. While major avalanch­es have the strength to rip trees and rocks from the ground, grab­bing onto them dur­ing a small­er slide can keep you in a sta­t­ic loca­tion and not get dis­ori­ent­ed as the snow com­pacts around you.

5. Swim
Once you’ve found your­self being dragged down a moun­tain by an avalanche you should tap your surf­ing skills to avoid being buried deep. Try to stay afloat and keep your head in the open air by swim­ming as hard as you can in the direc­tion of the fast-mov­ing snow.

6. Cre­ate an Air Pocket
When buried in snow, asphyx­i­a­tion is your biggest wor­ry. Cup­ping your mouth when you are being thrown around by the snow will cre­ate a small pock­et of air for you to sur­vive on for up to 30 min­utes. Once you’ve come to a stop, dig out a hole around your face. Anoth­er strat­e­gy is to expand your chest by fill­ing your lungs with air so that you have more room to breathe once the snow has settled.

Do you have any addi­tion­al tips for avalanche sur­vival? Let us know in the comments!