What to Do in an Avalanche While Skiing

If you get caught in an avalanche while skiing, you should attempt to move to the side of the slide and make a swimming motion to stay on top of the snow. You should also try to make an air pocket with your arms in case you get buried.

My name is Christine, and I created this blog to provide a valuable resource for skiers of all kinds. I’ve been out in the snow for most of my life and have learned a lot about avalanches over the years. 

This post will examine what to do in an avalanche while skiing. I’ll provide some tips to help increase your chances of survival in the unlikely event you get caught in one. I’ll also give you some other relevant information about avalanches. 

Let’s dig in. 

Key Takeaways

  • If you get caught in an avalanche, you should attempt to move yourself to the side of the slide rather than the center. The snow moves faster in the center, and you are more likely to get buried here.
  • You can also use a swimming motion to help you stay on top of the snow. This will also help prevent you from getting buried. 
  • Covering your face with your arms will create an air pocket if you get buried in snow. This is crucial because most avalanche deaths are caused by suffocation. 
  • Staying calm is also essential if you’re in an avalanche. If you panic, this will increase your breathing and heart rate and cause you to run out of air faster or make poor decisions. 

What to do in an Avalanche while Skiing

Getting caught in an avalanche is a worst-case scenario for every skier. None of us ever want to be in this situation, and it’s terrifying, to say the least. But it can happen, so it’s essential to know what to do if you’re caught in a slide. 

My first word of advice here is always to be prepared and do your best to avoid skiing where there is a risk of avalanches. This is especially true in the backcountry, where avalanches are far more common than at the resort

I’ll touch on how to prepare for skiing in avalanche-prone areas in the next section, but never go backcountry skiing without the proper knowledge on how to avoid a slide and what to do if you get caught in one. 

1. Move To the Sides of the Slide

Avalanches kind of act like a river or other moving body of water, where they are deeper and faster in the middle than they are on the sides. You want to do your best to move to the side of the moving snow to avoid becoming buried. 

It’s easier said than done when it comes to moving through an avalanche, but if you can navigate through it, get to the sides as quickly as possible. 

2. Swim to Stay Afloat

You also want to do your best to stay on top of the snow, and a swimming motion can help with this. Again, this is easier to read about than to actually do, but swimming just like you would on water helps you stay at the top of the moving snow. 

A swimming motion can also help you navigate through the snow and move to one side or the other rather than stay in the middle. 

3. Create an Air Pocket/Protect your Head

If you are getting buried in the snow, you need to make an air pocket with your arms over your face. This will give you enough room where you can breathe long enough to be rescued or dig yourself out. 

Hold your arms over your head and face to create this air pocket. If the snow sucks you under, do this right away while you can still move your arms. This will also help protect your head from debris, and you should also wear a helmet

If You’re Going to an Avalanche Area What Should You Do to Prepare? 

Having knowledge about avalanche conditions and behavior is a critical step to being prepared. You should take an avalanche awareness class if you plan on skiing in an avalanche area, and always make sure you have safety equipment with you as well. 

Avalanche safety equipment includes a shovel, beacon, and probe. These are essential because they can very much save your life or the life of any other people you are skiing with. It’s not worth the risk of skiing in avalanche areas without proper safety equipment. 

Can You Out Ski an Avalache? 

It is possible to out ski an avalanche, but you don’t want to rely on that as a safety measure. Never push your luck and ski in avalanche-prone areas just because you think you can out ski a slide. 

Even if you are an extremely experienced skier, many things can happen that will cause the slide to take over. Out skiing an avalanche is more luck than skill – it’s not an adequate safety tactic. 

Final Thoughts

The best way to avoid getting caught in an avalanche while skiing is to avoid avalanche-prone areas in the first place. But if you are going to ski there, always bring safety equipment and educate yourself about what to do if you get caught. 

Do you know of any avalanche tips that I didn’t mention here? Let me know in the comments below.

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