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As winter fun increases, so does the need for avalanche awareness

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As winter fun increases, so does the need for avalanche awareness

Max Webster, Investigative Reporter

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“There is nothing better when there is no wind, kinda crisp, and you are just skiing and its quiet and it’s just you and the mountain.“ Skyline’s Ski Club leader Chase Meyer described. While this pretty picture of skiing on a beautiful day, peace can turn to chaos in a flash. During the 2017-2018 season, 24 winter outdoorsmen were killed in avalanches, three of whom resided in Idaho. With the 2018-19 winter season approaching, snow related activities have and will become available. Amongst the new, beautiful blanket of snow there is a the flip side: avalanches and blizzards can cross your path at any time and create chaos in seconds.

The first of these dangers is the swift creation of an avalanche. When a large buildup of snow, known as a slab, is resting on a slope for a long period of time, the snow crystals begin to break and weaken from the pressure.

Once enough pressure is put on these slabs, the slab will break and start sliding down the slope, taking everything in its path down with it. To avoid this, avid skier Bruce Tremper with the Utah Avalanche Center explains that situational awareness is the key. When the cliff is at a 34 – 45 degree slope, adventurers should be weary, for this is considered the “danger zone” for avalanches.

In the event of an avalanche, there are a few different ways to stay safe. First, never try to outrun it. As the snow builds, it gets faster and faster as it falls, resulting in a certain doom to those below it. Instead, move to the side as swiftly as possible in order to get away from the falling snow. If you are unable to get out of the path, try to find something sturdy to hold onto like a tree.

If this still doesn’t work and you are sucked up by the snow, there are several things you can do to help yourself and rescue crews. The first thing to do when picked up by the snow is to try and stay on the top of the snow. One way to do this is by swimming upwards as much as possible, allowing crews to find you and get to you faster.

One final tip to increase your chances is by sticking your hand up. If you are stuck and cannot get out but can get your hand out, rescue crews or others in the area can easily see your hand pull you out.

In the end, the easiest way to avoid an avalanche situation is by not messing around in the backwoods and staying on a path. While it seems harmless at first, exploration can easily lead to being stranded without help or supplies. No matter how preparations are made in the event of an avalanche, nobody can avoid the destruction and bitter cold. With the new season starting, remember to be safe out there. The last thing we want is to have yet another natural event turn fatal.

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As winter fun increases, so does the need for avalanche awareness