4. What to do if the Worst Happens

Annie Boulanger Snowboarder Avalanche
Annie Boulanger was filmed making a beeline out of an avalanche situation at a 45 degree angle in her most recent movie part. Watch how she does it from 2.15.

If you do trigger a slide, the best thing you can do is to switch to warp factor 10 and high-tail it out of there as fast as you can, not in a hero line straight to the bottom but at about a 45° angle to the side to get out of the avalanche’s path. If you do get caught, your best bet is to try and ‘swim’ to stay at the top of the sluff, and if you go under keep waving your arms in front of your face to create an air pocket for yourself for when it stops, avalanche snow will lock up like concrete as soon as it stops moving. The closer you stay to the top the better as even a glove sticking above the surface will give a clue to your rescuers where you are.

Equally disastrous, if you see someone get caught in a slide you should do the following as quickly as possible, survival rates drop off rapidly for people not recovered within 15 minutes, so every second counts:

  • -  Call for help and do not leave the area
  • -  Wait for the avalanche to stop and check that it is as safe as possible to get to the area, it’s no help to anyone if youtrigger another avalanche
  • -  Get to the place where the victim was last seen and set your transceiver (and everyone else’s) to ‘search’ mode.
  • -  Begin sweeping the area for a signal and close in on it (just like you learned and practised…)
  • -  When you get the closest signal, mark that spot and begin to probe the surrounding area
  • -  Leave to probe in the snow where you find the buried victim.
  • -  DIG! Searching for someone is a scary and panic-inducing experience, which is why it’s best to practice beforehand. You might even want to elect someone to be in charge of the situation if you find yourself in one, but above all try and keep a level head and be as time-efficient as you can.

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