The skiers’ struggle to escape an avalanche looks like anything from a film. Many of us probably never experienced an avalanche, even if we’ve done a lot of skiing. It is, however, possible that avalanches have overtaken major ski areas.
Several factors might lead to an avalanche, and skiing is only one of them. Around 25 to 30 Americans are killed by avalanches in the United States every year. In most cases, the avalanche that kills these people is caused by humans.
Don’t let these depressing stats frighten you away from the mountain peaks. Avalanches kill individuals annually, but the possibility of an avalanche taking your life is very low.
How Does Skiing Cause Avalanches?
Avalanches come in many different forms; these avalanches leave a trail of devastation in their wake.
Avalanches often begin when a large piece of snow slides down from the mountaintop. It is difficult to predict when the avalanche will get extremely heavy and leave a trail of devastation.
The risk of an avalanche increases when the slope is more than Thirty degrees. There is no way to stop the devastation from occurring when gravity takes over. A slope’s covered snow can support considerable pressure before it begins to fall, as certain snow thicknesses are more vulnerable than others. The weight of an inexperienced skier may cause a block of snow to slide, and once it gets going, there’s no way to stop it!
Other types of avalanches might be set off by accident. An avalanche that inflicts greater damage results from thick blocks of snow. Slab avalanches cause the majority of ski-related fatalities. These layers of snow might be as thick as two meters.
When these layers begin to melt, layers begin to separate from one another and drop to the bottom. The mountain is left with broad, clear cuts after they’ve cleared it of all the fauna and trees which stood in their way.
Avalanches may be triggered by warm summer temperatures and torrential rainfall, which causes the snow to become unstable and fall, when a skier exerts their weight on these unstable areas of snow, the risk of an avalanche increases.
What to Do in Avalanche Skiing?
Ski patrol closely monitors Avalanche forecasts, which considers how the weather condition can influence the possibility of an avalanche. A lot of work goes into this month before opening day so they can monitor the avalanche.
Monitoring the weather, including snowfall, wind, and even temperature, allows patrollers to make informed judgments about where an avalanche could occur.
During the first few days of operation, the ski patrol’s workload increases as more people are on the slopes. Whenever the mountain is vacated, they set off avalanches intentionally and keep a close eye on the landscape. They may use explosives to create avalanches so that they can get clear of the area before a snowboarder comes along and sets it off.
In the event of heavy snowfall, ski patrols will shut some mountain areas if there isn’t enough ski activity to warrant it. Avalanche risk is reduced because of the compacting effect of skiers.
What Must You Be Aware Of?
It’s impossible to forecast avalanches, but there are several factors we should monitor to prevent one from happening.
● Check the Weather Update and Snowfall
To prevent avalanches, ignore areas where a lot of snow has just fallen and where there hasn’t been a lot of ski activity. However, the best skiing is reserved for the most recent snowfalls. Therefore, it is advised that you give it at least two days before entering into fresh snow.
● Take a Look at the Slope
An avalanche is far more likely to occur on a slope with a thirty to forty-five-degree angle. Try to avoid crossing or descending steep slopes of such an angle. There must also be an eye on the slope’s shape, which tends to be unsteady when convex.
● Observe the Forests
Clear signs of recent avalanches include trees that have lost branches on the upper side and bare slopes with only newborn timbers continuing to grow. Look for slopes that have a lot of shrubs and trees.
An Avalanche Survival Guide
Follow these tips to survive and escape an avalanche.
1. Try Not To Come In Its Way
It’s safer to ski parallel to the avalanche instead of right downslope, so you will not get trapped in the center where it’s most deadly.
2. Don’t Lose the Grip
It is unlikely that huge boulders or trees will be swept away in more modest avalanches. A boulder or tree may help you maintain your footing and save you from being swept away in a minor avalanche.
3. Stay Over the Snow
If you are trapped in an avalanche or a landslide, don’t be afraid to keep going. To avoid being dragged under the snow, you must swing and kick your arms like a swimmer. Even if all you could do is swing your arms wildly, you’ll still be able to keep yourself floating.
4. Don’t Lower Your Arm.
You are less likely to get killed if somehow the rescue squad can discover you soon. In the case of an injury, putting one arm out in the air can let the attackers identify you more quickly and maximize your survival chances.
5. Don’t Hold Your Breath.
Fatalities caused by asphyxia account for the majority of avalanche fatalities. It’s a good idea to use your hands to make a hole in the snow when you get stuck. Protect your lips with your fingers before you’re covered enough to make an air bubble.
6. Keep Calm and Carry On.
It may be particularly tough because of the stressful situation that you may find yourself in due to an avalanche. It’s important to remember that the quicker your breathing becomes when you’re scared, the shorter your window of opportunity to survive. If you don’t get out of there soon, the rescue crew won’t have time to locate you.
Our Final Thoughts
The possibility of an avalanche must not put off skiing. But understanding what causes avalanches and where the most vulnerable spots are might help you make better decisions and minimize your chances of being trapped in one. Watch for red flags, comply with ski patrol rules, and be prepared for sudden terrain changes.