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Avalanche Awareness and Safety Info at Moosejaw

Avalanche Safety + Conditions

It all starts with awareness. Take the time to read up, before heading into territory prone to avalanches. Reading about it afterwards definitely won't help. Traveling into hazardous terrain can be exhilarating and incredibly fun, but can take a wrong turn if not taking proper precautions. Don't let fear keep you at home this winter, grab your knowledge, the proper gear and head into the backcountry.

Avalanche Conditions Map

Check the avalanche conditions in the region you will be visiting, and prepare for your trip accordingly.

You can hover over a region for the current avalanche conditions. If you click on a region you will be taken to a site with more detailed information.

Know what to watch for, and watch the weather forecast closely.
Know what to watch for, and monitor the weather forecast closely.
Educate yourself and be prepared. That's better than dumb and in danger.
Educate yourself and be prepared. That's better than dumb and in danger.

Awareness

Snow on a mountain can be dangerous.

It's more than just taking a peek at the sky.

Get your eyes and ears ready and use them to put your knowledge to work. A big part of avalanche safety is being aware of your surroundings.

Here are 5 major red flags to watch out for:
1. Recent Avalanche Activity: This is where you gotta check those charts and advisories in the area and watch the mountains while you drive to your destination for anything that may have happened overnight. Recent avalanches within 48 hours is a good indicator that your trip is a no-go.

2. Signs of Unstable Snow: Look for cracks and listen for "whumpfing". That word might be cool to say but when you hear it, you'll want to move to a safer area.

3. Heavy Snowfall or Rain: Lots of snow or rain within 24 hours will definitely change what is happening on the mountain. It can and will increase the chances of danger.

4. Wind Blown Snow: When the wind is whipping, snow can be transported leaving certain areas barren and others loaded with multiple feet overnight. A forecast might read 6" of total snowfall but with enough wind, you could accidentally end up on a slope with several feet of snow. Make sure you check the wind as well as snowfall totals and keep your eyes open for the signs of wind-loading.

5. Rapid Warmth: Especially more prevalent in spring ski situations, unexpected heat can really put a bummer on the mountain.


Types of Avalanches
Slab: The more dangerous of the two types, slab avalanches occur as a sheet of snow breaking loose from a weaker layer.

Sluff: This type of avalanche occurs when the weak layer is on top. It is a smaller slide of dry powder. Just because it is less dangerous, doesn't mean it can't cause damage and trouble to a skier.

Slope
Most avalanches occur on steep slopes between 36-38 degrees, so get off that mega slope!

A beacon can help with both getting rescued, or doing the rescuing.
A beacon can help with both getting rescued, or doing the rescuing.
A probe pinpoints the location of someone trapped beneath the snow, and a shovel will get that snow outta the way.
A probe pinpoints the location of someone trapped beneath the snow, and a shovel will get that snow outta the way.
A probe pinpoints the location of someone trapped beneath the snow, and a shovel will get that snow outta the way.
An airbag pack can help keep you up near the top of the snow should you encounter an avalanche.

SAFETY GEAR

Not just a pile of stuff to make you look cool.

I'm still hoping you won't have to use them.

Essential Avalanche Gear
• Beacon (not bacon): While we all wish bacon was an essential item in your pack, it totally isn't. A beacon has two signals, transmit and search. From the moment you leave the parking lot, your beacon should be in the 'transmit' setting. Confirm all partners have done the same. Only turn your beacon to search if there is an incident. Take a class, become familiar with all the features of your beacon before going out into the field.

• Probe: A collapsible aluminum or carbon shaft that fits in your pack that deploys quickly to help you search for a buried friend or foe. They commonly measure around 240 to 300 centimeters in length, depending on the model you choose. The probe will help you pinpoint the location of the victim as well as measure how deep within the snow they are located.

• Shovel: Perhaps self-explanatory, but a shovel will help you dig into the snow. Avalanche shovels are special though, as they are smaller to fit into your pack, the handle typically collapses and they're pretty darn strong. The shovel can help you test the snowpack as well as dig out any buried ski partners.


Optional Avalanche Gear
• RECCO® Rescue System: This is a two-part system, where ski resorts and rescue teams carry RECCO® detectors. A skier, snowboarder or mountaineer wears the reflector. Most reflectors are integrated directly into the hard shell jacket or pants. Good thing we carry plenty of brands that make this available in their ski and snowboard outerwear. The more reflectors worn, the better chance the detectors have of finding you, so wearing at least one towards your upper body, while another is at the lower body is best. Never know when you'll end up in the snow upside down.

• AvaLung: This product is basically attached to an AvaLung-ready pack. Again, not required, but you're gonna need a backpack anyway to carry your essentials, so maybe this is something you'll wanna add. In the event of a burial, the AvaLung is a mouthpiece that pulls fresh air from the snowpack, then directs exhaled C02 away from the body. Neat!

• Airbag Pack: Some airbag packs inflate via a CO2 canister, while others feature a battery/fan mechanism. Either way, these are incredibly cool to watch inflate. They're more than just a fun balloon though, as they are a safety feature in case of an avalanche. When deployed, it will work to help keep you up towards the top of the snow.

If you you're still unfortunate enough to encounter an avalanche, make sure you're prepared so everyone survives.
If you you're still unfortunate enough to encounter an avalanche, make sure you're prepared so everyone survives.
Every second counts should disaster strike, you guys. Be prepared, be smart, and get everyone out alive.
Every second counts should disaster strike, you guys. Be prepared, be smart, and get everyone out alive.

Be Prepared

Prepping means you're almost ready.

Putting skills to use.

Knowing what to look for and having the gear is half the battle. Preparing yourself includes much more. You need to know how to apply the knowledge you do have and how to use the gear in case of an emergency. Get on your favorite search engine and find an avalanche safety class in your area, there are options available for beginners all the way to professionals, depending on what you're looking for and your current skillset.

Your 3 essential items need to be used together in order to work properly. If you're searching for a victim, for example, you'll need to first locate the area of strongest signal from your transceiver beacon first. Then get out your probe, pushing the probe as far as it will go, perpendicular to the surface of the slope. Do this in a spiral pattern. Once location has been confirmed, the shovel is ready to go. Dig in a downhill direction, 1.5x the depth, 1-2 meters away from the probe.

Finding a buried beacon is an incredibly difficult task. Practicing constantly with your safety tools will help however. Work with your friends, ski partners and people in your avalanche safety classes. Use your head, you've got a good brain in there that can apply your knowledge to real-world avalanche safety situations.

Avalanche Rescue Videos

Our BFFs at Backcountry Access Inc produced a series of videos that detail all the steps involved in rescuing someone that has been buried in an avalanche. In order from left to right below, the videos cover the basics of beacon/transceiver searching, probing for a victim, strategic shoveling, organizing a backcountry rescue, providing first aid and care for victims, and an evacuation out of the backcountry. These videos are informative and will provide the basics, but are NOT a substitute for participating in an avalanche course.

Avalanche rescue beacon searching basics video Avalanche rescue probing basics video Avalanche rescue shoveling basics video Organizing an avalanche backcountry rescue basics video Post avalanche first aid and patient care basics video Avalanche backcountry rescue and evacuation basics video

NOW GET OUT THERE, SAFELY

Now that you know a little bit about avalanche safety, get out in the snowy backcountry. Remember the knowledge doesn't stop here, so sign up for some classes, practice with your equipment and continue learning. Don't let challenging terrain stop you from having fun, but don't let your fun stop you from staying safe. Gear up, and show that mountain you're smart enough to enjoy what it has to offer.

Backcountry Access Avalanche Gear Black Diamond Avalanche Gear Mammut Avalanche Gear MSR Avalanche Gear Camp USA Avalanche Gear
 
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