Staying Alive in Av Terrain

While the avalanche is moving:

  • Yell—let your partner know you’re caught
  • Try to escape off the slab
  • If you can’t get off the slab, get rid of your equipment
  • Use your breathing equipment (such as an Avalung mouthpiece, avalanche balloon or avalanche ball) or cover your mouth with your clothing
  • Leave your pack on: (1.) It provides valuable padding to your back and kidneys; ( 2.) Should you survive, it contains needed supplies; (3.) It makes you a larger object, possibly keeping you near the surface
  • Fight for your life—swimming or rolling like a log can help
  • As the avalanche comes to a stop: (1.) Keep one hand near your mouth to scoop out an air space and wiggle to make an air space around your body; (2.) To help rescuers find you, extend a hand toward the surface before the avalanches comes to a stop (once it stops, it will set up like concrete)
  • When the avalanche comes to a stop: Relax. The snow instantly freezes up like concrete, so most completely buried victims can’t even move their fingers—there’s nothing more you can do so try to relax.

Equipment considerations:

  • Snowmobilers: Wear a helmet with a face shield and a good seal around the neck. It helps to maintain an air space around your head when buried. Also, carry a shovel on your back in a small pack instead of on the snowmobile. If you survive and your snowmobile is buried, you’ll need a shovel to dig out your friends.
  • Skiers: Wear releasable bindings and don’t use pole straps.
  • Snowboarders: Rig your bindings with a ripcord so you can get out of your snowboard in a hurry.


-- Adapted from Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper, The Mountaineers Books


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