In the mountainous regions of the Yukon, as well as Alberta and British Columbia, avalanches occur each year by the thousand. They can be brought on by wind, rain, temperature shifts (warming), snowfall and earthquakes. They can also be caused by unnatural occurrences, such as skiers, snowmobilers, hikers, or the vibrations from machinery or construction. Some of the most common causes of death— for those caught in an avalanche—are wounds and hypothermia. For these reasons, it’s always a good idea to bring some supplies, such as a good First Aid Kit and an Emergency Blanket.
An avalanche needs four factors in order to occur:
- a steep slope
- snow cover
- a weak layer in the snow cover
- one of the triggers mentioned above
If you’re heading into the mountains where you think these four factors may come together, it’s best to think ahead and know what to do in case an avalanche does occur. After all, avalanches travel at speeds of up to 90km/hour, so it seems wise to avoid them, if possible.
Keep yourself safe by doing the following:
- Take an avalanche safety course.
- Travel in a group.
- Drive carefully and take heed of signs, warnings, and closures.
- Do NOT drive through an avalanche. Remember that it’s always easier to find a car than a single person. You are safer in your car!
- Try to stay calm if you become caught in an avalanche. Try to push away any kind of machinery that’s near you, and instead grab onto a tree or a rock, if you can. With your mouth tightly closed, try to “swim” along the surface of the avalanche, always trying to move yourself out to the side of it.
- When you sense the avalanche slowing down, see if you can keep an air pocket in front of your face, with one arm.
- One the avalanche stops completely, try to relax your breathing and dig yourself out. Try not to use up any excess energy or air, unless a Search and Rescue member is nearby, or someone on the surface who can help dig you out.
- Don’t forget, it’s always wise to be prepared for self sufficiency. That’s why, in addition to the emergency supplies mentioned earlier, it’s also a great idea to bring along some extra nutrition to keep up your strength. For light packing, try our Soldier Fuel Energy Bars.
If, above all, you’re able to stay calm and remember the swimming motion, maintaining an air pocket, and staying close to the surface, you may very well be able to dig yourself out of an avalanche without fatality.
For an extended look at what emergency supplies, such as the various, long-lasting water packages, are available, take a look at our website, which will get you totally prepared!
Article contributed by Sophie Wooding – Avid gardener and cyclist in Victoria, BC and Content Writer for Frontier.io