In this post, we want to highlight avalanche safety and awareness while snowmobiling. If you are planning on riding in areas where avalanches are possible, make sure you are prepared or don’t go. This is by no means a comprehensive guide but an attempt to get more awareness out there. This does not replace an avalanche skills training course. There are a ton of resources online so there is no excuse for not knowing how to stay safe and what the conditions are in your area. We’ve also listed some of these online resources at the bottom of this post. Please review them for a more comprehensive guide. Here’s a list of some things to keep in mind before going out into avalanche territory.
First things first. It is important to take an AST (avalanche skills training) course before going into the back country. A course will give you the knowledge and training so you can recognize avalanche danger, take the correct steps to avoid being caught in one, and know how to respond if you or someone in your party is caught in an avalanche. www.avalanche.org is a great resource for training, conditions, statistics, and avalanche information.
When going in the backcountry, make sure you always go with another person (on a separate machine) and preferably a group. If a member of your party is caught in an avalanche, chances of survival will be much higher with a group helping with the rescue than just one person trying to perform the rescue. Also, if you do choose to pass over terrain that may pose avalanche danger, make sure that only one of you is in danger at any time. Also, make sure that the people you ride with know how to use their avalanche gear and have proper training. In the event you are caught in an avalanche, they become your rescue team. This guys appeared to be all by himself…
Make sure you have a working avalanche transceiver (with full batteries), shovel, and probe minimum. Having a avalanche backpack is also a great idea for extra insurance if you are caught in an avalanche. Avalanche gear is expensive, but it will save your life. If you can’t afford the gear, then you shouldn’t be riding in avalanche terrain, it’s that simple. It’s also a great idea to take along an extra jacket, energy bars/food, whistle, lighter/fire-starter, first aid kit, knife, headlamp, GPS beacon and water. If you do get in a situation where you are stuck overnight these essentials will help you survive. Dave Norona talks about these in the video below.
Know and look for the 4 main factors that cause avalanches: Weather, Terrain, Snow Cover, Human. Check weather and conditions before you leave on avalanche.org. If the terrain you are riding on is steeper than 30 degrees, take the correct precautions. Test the snow and look for signs of avalanche danger. Be aware of where you are riding and that only one person is exposed to potential avalanche danger at any time.
Sources and Resources
A few great resources for avalanche information
www.avalanche.org – Avalanche Education, Resources, and Information
Safety Academy Guide Book – Basic Avalanche Knowlege Book for Backcountry Skiers, Free Riders, and Snowmobilers
http://www.fsavalanche.org/ – Forest Service National Avalanche Center Website
http://www.snowmobileinfo.org/snowmobile-safety-resources.aspx Snowmobile Safety and Access Information Center Website