How to get help if you get stuck in an avalanche? The quick answer is: pray as you’ve never prayed before. However, there’s more of a common sense solution. If you think you’re a good enough skier to do your shushing on a steep slope area that could suddenly be overtaken by an avalanche, you should already know what to do if the worst happens. However, if you haven’t yet had that kind of thrilling experience, but want to try it, some sensible advice could help you survive the terrifying experience. The advice also applies to hikers who enjoy being up very close to a mountainside that may suddenly smother them.
1. Before you consider the adventure, especially if you’re a novice skier, check all pertinent weather, snow conditions and other information before you plan to ski in potentially dangerous areas.
1. Always let someone know back at the ski lodge or hotel where you’re going, when you’ll begin your ski run and when you intend to return. When you finish and return, let the same people know you’re all right.
2. Use the buddy system on all ski runs, especially those that could involve avalanche dangers. Each buddy should have companion buddy in sight at all times. Even if you’re experienced, never ski in potentially dangerous areas alone.
3. Take along on every ski run a fully-charged cell phone. It should be be set with one-punch keys for local emergency and rescue team numbers.
4. Bring a small rechargeble LED flashlight with a clip on it. While on slopes when the sky is dark, clip it to your cap to see ahead. If you’re in an emergency after an injury or caught in an avalanche, set it on quick flashes.
5. If you’re skiing in a potentially dangerous area away from the usual runs, there may not be a warm lodge, bartender and fireplace at the bottom of the slope. Always take along a basic backpack, with a small, flat flask of water and another of whiskey. You can always use water, and nothing is better for the body and soul when covered with five feet of snow than a swig of whiskey.
6. Wear adequate clothing for the adventure, both for the cold weather above the snow, and for the possibility that you must spend some time under the snow. Have a wool face mask, heavy wool gloves and scarf to wrap around your ears, nose and fingers if you are in an avalanche-caused emergency.
7. If you’re caught and totally covered by snow and debris in an avalanche, immediately start working upward to make an air hole. Use your ski poles, knife or anything else to be sure you’ll be getting an air supply as soon as possible.
8. Stay calm while you try to make yourself comfortable or dig your way out. If dusk or night has fallen, and there are helicopters above, flash your LED flashlight to call attention to your location. If you hear rescuers or dogs nearby, keep yelling until someone gets to you.
If you find yourself stuck in an avalanche, maybe the best advice is to pray someone saw what happened and will try to get to you as soon as possible. Additionally, you should have heeded all information about the potential dangers, as well as brought basic materials with you to keep you alive until help arrives.