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  -look for evidence of other avalanches. (Most Important)
  -Look for collapsing snow. Listen for a "whomp" sound. This sound means that snow is extremely unsafe. Move out of the area immediately, and stay off of steep slopes.
  -Look for cracks in snow. The longer the crack the more dangerous the snow.
  -Watch for rapid changes in weather. (rapid increase of new or wind blown snow, rapid warming, melting, or rain on new snow).

  -Anchors. Things such as trees and rocks help hold snow in place, but to be effective, they must be thick and strong.  Tree age and population density are examlpes of anchor effectiveness. A sparcely populated stand of saplings, would be much less successful in anchoring snow than a mature densely populated stand of trees.

  -Steepness. Most avalanches occur, most frequently on slopes between 35 and 45 degrees. Slopes less than 30 degrees seldom produce avalanches and slopes steeper than about 50 degrees slough so often that they tend not to build up into slabs. Unfortunately, 35-40 degree slopes are the most popular for skiing.

  -Aspect with respect to wind and sun. Slopes that have been covered with wind blown snow are more dangerous, while slopes that have been eroded by the wind, are usually more stable. Slopes that are shaded, especially during colder months are more likely to produce dry-slab avalanches, while sunny slopes during warming months are more likely to produce wet slab avalanches.

  -Consequences. Survival depends on the size of the avalanche, and where one is caught. A large avalanche could trap an individual in a deep crevasse under many feet of snow. One could even be pushed over a cliff and then be buried from there. Smaller avalanches, although just as deadly, may not involve as much snow and force, and are more likely to be survived.

  -Use test slopes. Test small slopes on foot, skis, snowboard, or snowmobile to see how the snow responds. If it is questionable, stay off larger slopes.

  -Cornice tests. Find a refrigerator-sized cornice and tumble it down the slope. Hint: ALWAYS wear a belay rope and use a snow saw or thin avalanche cord to cut the cornice. This this should only be attempted by experienced individuals.

  -Dig snow pits in representative slopes
. To do this test, you will need to complete a multi day class on avalanche safety. This show only be attempted by experienced individuals.


   -Have an escape route planned
. It always better to have a plan beforehand, and to expect that something will happen, rather than not being aware that it may happen.
  -If it looks like questionable terrain, find a safer route.
Take advantage of the safety of ridges, thick trees and slopes with safer consequences. Always remember, you can, in most cases go back the way you came if a safe route is an issue.

   -Travel One at a time.
Someone should always remain in a safe place for rescue purposes while members of their group are on the dangerous part of the slope. Always keep visual and voice contact with everyone in your party, but do not occcupy the slope all at once.With large groups, split them in half.

  -Use slope cuts.
Keep your speed up and cut across the starting zone, so that if the slope slides, your momentum can carry you off the moving slab into safer terrain. You can do this on skis, snowboards or on snowmobiles.

  -Watch out for cornices (overhangs caused by blown snow that have little to no solid foundation)
. These pieces of unsteady ground break off easily, and should be avoided by taking a wide path around. NEVER, NEVER walk out to the edge of a drop-off without first checking it out. Many people have died this way.

  -If there's no other choice, go underground.
Snow caves or crevasses provide adequate shelter for short term survival during bad snow storms or avalanches. You may be uncomfortable but you will be alive.


GETTING OFF THE SNOW SLAB This needs to be done quickly and is hard to do. If descending on skis or snowboard, head straight down the slope. This will increase speed. You then much angle off to either side (preferably the side with the closest stable snow) and move off the slab. If you're ascending there's really not much you can do. If you're close enough to the crown, you can try running uphill to get off the slab, or running off to the side. If you are on a snowmobile, increase the power to move you to safety. If you're headed uphill, continue to move uphill. If you are crossing a slope, continue across to safe snow. If you're headed downhill, the only thing that you can dois to try and outrun the avalanche. Sometimes it works, but usually it doesn't.

If you can't get off of the snow slab, try grabbing a tree. This needs to be done very quickly because avalanches will pick up speed. The trees that were once your saving grace, will become deadly devices. After about 4 seconds they can easily be traveling at 40 miles per hour, and you can imagine what a tree feels like at 40 mph. (Almost a third of avalanche victims die from trauma from hitting trees and rocks on the way down.)

If you are not able to escape or grab onto a tree, you need to swim hardbefore you start to sink.

As the avalanche finally slows down and just before it comes to rest,

  -Try and clear an air space in front of your mouth to help delay the formation of an ice mask, which hinders breathing even more than what it already is.
  -Try to push a hand upward to attempt to have a visual marker for rescuers. You may not know which way is up, but take your best guess.
  -After the avalanche comes to a stop, the debris will instantly set up like concrete. So any actions you take must occur BEFORE it comes to a stop. Unless you are very near the surface or have a hand sticking up out of the snow, it's almost impossible to dig yourself out of an avalanche.

  -Watch them to see where they end up

  -DO NOT GO FOR HELP. Victims may have only a few minutes of life, and if you leave, they will probably be dead when you return. Spend a half hour to an hour trying to find them first. Also, by going for help, you could endanger people making an attempt to provide rescue assistance by loosening more unstable snow.

  -Is it safe to try a rescue? Usually it's safe, but if the individual is buried in a place with multiple avalanche starting zones looming above and weather conditions are questionable (i.e. it's snowing hard or blowing hard or there's rapid melting), then there may be a good chance of another avalanche coming down on top of the search area. It's a hard call. If you think it's too dangerous then it probably is. If it's too dangerous then you should go for help. It's a job for professionals.

  -Find a safe route to the avalanche debris. Often you can descend down the avalanche path or come up from the bottom onto the debris.

  - If the victim is  wearing a beacon, turn yours to receive and make SURE everyone in your party is turned to receive.

  - Go fast and cover a lot of ground.

  - Look carefully for clues, hands sticking out of the snow, snowmobiles, skies, gloves.

  - In most snowmobile burials, the victim is usually just uphill of their snowmobile.

                                                     Source: www.avalanche.org


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