Don’t Get Lost!
Part of enjoying the outdoors is preparation. Things don’t always go as planned on the best of days. If you take a little time to prepare you can save your self a lot of grief and possibly your life.
1. PREPARE: You need a buddy, a beacon (worn over your midlayer, not in your pack), a shovel, a probe. And pack a puffy jacket and a fire starter.
2. PRACTICE: Before heading out, have your buddy put his beacon inside a pack and bury it (at least three feet down), pinpoint its location with your transceiver and probe, then start digging. Another option is to head to one of 37 U.S. resorts that have beacon-training parks. If you haven’t gotten professional training yet, take an avalanche-safety course. [Locations of courses and beacon-training parks can be found at backcountry-access.com/education.]
3. PAY ATTENTION: Avalanche advisories (avalanche.org) are generalized, and wind, temperature change, and snowfall can alter snowpack stability within hours. Look for recent avalanche activity, collapsing or cracking snow, and other warnings. If you’re skiing along flat terrain and the snow makes a whumph sound, Mother Nature just told you to go home.
4. WORK TOGETHER: Travel one at a time on 25-degree or steeper slopes, and leapfrog down mountainsides so you keep each other within sight. Don’t underestimate small slopes; they can slide. Make sure everyone knows the slope’s escape routes. Wait for each other out of a potential slide’s pathway.
5. MOVE FAST: If an avalanche strikes, try to ski out of its way. If it hits you, fight to get one hand out of the snow and wave your other hand in front of your face to create an air pocket. If your buddy gets hit, note where he disappears and start searching below that spot. Look for obvious clues: gloves or a pack. He has a 92 percent chance of survival if he is uninjured and you rescue him within 15 minutes. The clock is ticking.
10 Essentials To Take
- Navigation (map, compass, GPS)
- Personal Locator Beacon, or satellite texting, location beacon.
- First Aid Supplies and sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses and hat).
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Insulation (extra synthetic or wool clothing)
- Fire. (waterproof matches, lighter, firestarter like a small candle)
- Repair kit for your mobility gear (skis, snowshoes, watercraft, off-road vehicle)
- Food (extra meals, energy snacks)
- Hydration (extra water, water filter or treatment)
- Emergency shelter (tent, tarp, cord, reflective blanket, 2 large garbage bags)
Don’t get hurt!
- Be aware, and educate yourself about what you’re getting into.
- Take the proper gear.
- Know the difficulty of getting out, if you do get hurt. Have a backup plan.
- Travel with a buddy. There is safety in numbers.