Winter is in full force and the unfortunate hazards of this season are also upon us. In light of some recent tragedies due to heavy snow and avalanches out in the west of Canada we have teamed up with an experienced avalanche technician from Alberta to remind riders on how to be safe on the slopes!
As a skier or snowboarder that sticks to the resorts it is easy to forget the dangers of avalanches as the amazing avalanche and patrol teams at the resorts work each and every day to ensure the runs are safe.
The Avalanche Control team conducts avalanche mitigation measures first thing in the morning if they believe that there is an avalanche threat to open ski terrain. This is done through a combination of explosives, ski cutting and closure of terrain. At the same time the Patrol team will perform run checks on the remainder of the terrain to ensure there are no other hazards to the public.
For these reasons it is not practiced nor considered necessary to carry avalanche gear within the ski limits, however it can be easy to become ignorant to the dangers that lie outside the limits. Any backcountry skiing out of the boundary has avalanche hazards that have not been mitigated. Therefore it is ALWAYS heavily recommended to be equipped with a beacon or transceiver, a shovel and a probe and if possible an airbag backpack.
Having the right gear isn’t enough though, having the right training is also key.
For those of you who have never seen or fully understand avalanches they are a mass of snow falling rapidly down a mountainside. There are several kinds of avalanches. You can read more about the different kinds here: https://avalanche.org/avalanche-encyclopedia/avalanche/
They are triggered naturally through significant inputs in weather; heat, wind, snow, rain or a combination of those.
Human triggered avalanches typically occur when there is an underlying weak layer within the snowpack which fractures when there is additional load on top of it (i.e. a skier or snowboarder). It is therefore extremely important to know how to read snow layers. You can read a lot more about this in the document from @Ortovox: https://issuu.com/ortovox/docs/sagb_1617_web_en
The best way to avoid setting off an avalanche is to take the training to recognize what is avalanche terrain and avoiding it.
If you ever find yourself in an avalanche, it is advised to:
- Yell “Avalanche” so people around you are aware of what is happening.
- Try and ski out of the side of the avalanche.
- If you can’t ski away try to remove your snowboard or skis and poles.
- If you are no longer standing try to grab onto trees
- Fight to stay on top of the avalanche by using a swimming motion
- If you find yourself getting buried try and stick your hand out onto the surface otherwise put your hand in front of your face to create an air pocket.
- Stay calm and wait for rescuers
Remember, taking the training course will always be the best way to be prepared and make yourself aware of the dangerous terrain! Be aware of the 5 steps from @KnowBeforeYouGo: https://kbyg.org/#moreinfo.
Being a startup in the ski community it is our hope to aid in keeping all our riders safe! If you need more information on your local courses or how to get more information don’t hesitate to ask.
Thanks to @snesikkerhed.dk for the good links and our experienced avalanche technician in Alberta for the other information. This article is just scratching the surface of how to identify and stay safe from avalanches, be sure to spend time on this topic before going out of the boundary, take the safety courses and learn how to use your gear!
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