Do EVERYTHING you possibly can to avoid such accidents. BY SETTING OFF AN AVALANCHE, YOU ENDANGER YOUR OWN LIFE AND POTENTIALLY THE LIVES OF OTHERS!
On open pistes, your avalanche safety is guaranteed!
That said, in order to enjoy the powder snow, whether you are a variant skier, freerider, snowboarder, tourer or snowshoer, there are a number of rules you should follow:
- Always take note of the avalanche risk level.
- Plan your tours based on avalanche and weather reports.
- NEVER go into the backcountry (even when avalanche risk is low) without required equipment (transponder, shove, probe, charged mobile phone). This rule applies to all group members. Every member should have completed safety training with their own equipment.
- Check your avalanche transponder before every tour to insure it is working correctly.
- Never ascend steep hillsides closely bunched (leave 10 m between each member of the skiing party).
- Always cross steep mountainsides alone; with inclines of up to 35 degrees, leave at least 30 m between each person.
- When the avalanche risk level is 3 or higher, avoid slopes with more than a 35-degree incline.
Rescue by companions is the most significant survival chance for anyone buried by an avalanche. And every minute counts! That’s why it is so important to have practiced for a worst-case scenario at least once before.
By going through a simulated emergency situation, you learn to use your own equipment and how best to behave in such circumstances.
If, despite all your precautions, an avalanche does occur, those people who are above the avalanche must be aware of the following.
- If several people are above the avalanche, one of them must take charge of coordination.
- First make an emergency call (140 mountain rescue, 144 ambulance or 112 international emergency). If no mobile phone or signal is available, one group member should ride down to the valley and summon help.
- Begin a general search – ascertain whether you see anything at all.
- Set all available transponders to “Search”, otherwise you will hinder one another.
- Search the avalanche cone from below, if possible without skis. If you are alone above the avalanche, make broad loops across the area – 15 m from one edge of the avalanche to 15 m from the other edge, then 30 m upwards, then in the opposite direction. If you have several search transponders available, make your way up the avalanche cone maintaining a distance of 30 meters.
- If you get a signal, track it. Where the signal is the loudest or the distance between beeps is the shortest, make a line in the snow. Then search along the line from the other direction. The loudest signal will indicate where the beep is coming from.
- Shovel down into the snow with all your effort. Skis and snowboards are completely inappropriate for shoveling, so you will be wasting your energy unnecessarily.
- Ideally, a helicopter with an on-board doctor will appear at the scene. If not, commence resuscitation procedures as necessary.
If you happen to be the person who was caught up in the avalanche, there are a number of things you should also be aware of:
- Only a few people are able to react fast enough to escape the danger area. That’s why you should be as aware of impending avalanches as possible while you are skiing. Standing still will often lead to you being buried. Also vital: good skiing skills, especially under stress and at high speed.
- If you fall and have little time: get out of your bindings and safety straps, and get rid of your ski poles. Fight against the avalanche! Defend yourself and do everything you can not to be pulled under.
- When you sense the avalanche is slowing down, put your hands in front of your face. Try to create an opening for your mouth and a pocket of air for you to breathe.
- Save your strength. If you can’t break through the snow covering on your first attempt, don’t make any more attempts. These would be pointless and cost you valuable air for breathing.
- Whatever happens, stay calm.
- Shout out when a rescuer is above you and now with all your strength.
In the first 35 minutes, the victim is involved in a life-or-death struggle to avoid suffocation (assuming no other life-threatening injuries resulted from the fall). After that, there is a growing danger of hypothermia. If you should then be rescued, you need to be treated like a raw egg. Cold blood should not be allowed to mix with the core blood of your brain, heart, lungs and abdomen. If a hypothermia victim is moved too much, their life will still be very much in danger even in the hospital.