Avalanches are a completely natural and unavoidable occurrence. They happen when a layer of snow becomes too heavy for the slope it rests on, causing that snow to slide down the mountain in an unstoppable mass. Anything can trigger an avalanche, such as a skier or snowboarder accidentally setting off one nearby to weather conditions such as high winds or rapid temperature drops. If you find yourself stuck under an avalanche, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of survival!
Do Not Panic
Panicking in an avalanche only worsens the situation because it causes your body to try and fight for oxygen in its natural way by breathing faster. Unfortunately, this makes it more likely for you to inhale snow instead of air, causing further problems. So try and fight this instinct and do what you can to remain calm! You are more likely to find a way out of the avalanche alive if you keep your wits about you!
Don’t Fight Against It
If you find yourself being swept down a mountain by an avalanche, it is because the snowpack has already begun to slide, and you are very unlikely to be able to stop this process from occurring. The best thing you can do in this situation is not to fight against it but try and streamline your body as much as possible. It will be less likely that you will incur any severe injuries from hitting trees or rocks on the way down the mountain. Take note of where these obstacles are as well, because if you do get thrown out into open land, these landmarks may aid in finding your way back home again!
Find An Air Pocket
This may seem like an obvious step, but it is the most important one you can take when trapped under an avalanche. You need to find air in order to breathe! So if at all possible, try and wedge yourself into any open space that might be around. Places like behind a tree trunk or between rocks. Try not to move too much once you are wedged in there because this could start another avalanche! Just stay put until help comes.
Odds are, if you are caught in an avalanche, someone will rescue you within a few hours, so don’t panic. Instead, staying calm and conserving your energy is extremely important. You will only exhaust yourself more if you try and move around or fight against the snowpack too much. However, if a rescue doesn’t come within three hours, try to make yourself seen! Even the slightest movement may alert people nearby of your location. They might not notice that you are under an avalanche otherwise.
Yell Out If You Hear Others
If you hear others nearby, stay very still and call out to them. They may not have heard you come down the mountain, but if they have, then it is very likely that their first instinct will be to look for you. If multiple people can hear you yelling, try yelling at different pitches so that the sound carries farther, even if one of them isn’t close enough to listen to your voice alone.
Learning what to do if you are caught in an avalanche can be a vital skill for people who love spending time in the snow. If an avalanche does happen while you are out, use these steps to help yourself get rescued safely! It is always best to take precautions when traveling under dangerous conditions, and being prepared can mean the difference between life and death.