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Avalanche Safety Tips

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A massive slab of glacier dislodges, triggering an avalanche in Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. Avalanches range from a small-scale movement of loose snow, called sluffing, to massive displacements.


Avalanches can occur without warning, sending thousands of tons of debris and ice downhill at breakneck speeds.

Every year, hundreds of people—usually skiers, snowboarders, or snowmobilers—get caught in avalanches. Here are some key steps you can take to avoid avalanches and actions to take if you or someone you're with gets caught in a snowslide.

Preparation

• Wear an avalanche rescue beacon that signals your location.

• Learn how to use the rescue equipment.

• Practice using the rescue equipment.

Awareness

• Constantly evaluate avalanche conditions.

• Areas with fresh accumulations of wind-driven snow are particularly vulnerable.

• Extremely steep slopes particularly in shaded areas near a ridge are also risky.

• Always travel with a partner. Descend risky areas one by one and watch for avalanche signs.

What to Do If Caught

• If caught in a slide, try to get off the slab or grab a tree.

• If swept away, swim to the surface.

Rescue

• Carry a small shovel and a long probe to locate a buried partner.

• Evaluate the avalanche hazard before attempting a rescue.