Idaho Falls, ID: Caribou-Targhee National Forest officials urge winter recreation visitors to get current avalanche forecasts and take essential survival gear before traveling into backcountry areas.
Recent storms have provided enough new snow to get outdoor recreation enthusiasts excited about being in the backcountry. With the new snow accumulations, avalanche forecast offices are also concerned that the avalanche potential has increased. Check your local avalanche forecasts before going out, and always remember to evaluate the site-specific snow-pack conditions before you ride/ski a slope or area.
Visitors planning a trip to the mountainous backcountry should contact the nearest avalanche hazard forecast office or visit www.avalanche.org for the latest conditions prior to leaving. Forest officials remind all visitors that avalanches can be triggered in isolated parts of any forecast area. Avalanche danger is currently “HIGH” on the north end of the forest in the Island Park/West Yellowstone area and low to moderate on the east and southern ranges.
Utah utahavalancecenter.org 801-524-5304 Bear River Range
Montana mtavalanche.com 406-587-6984 Island Park area
Wyoming jhavalanche.org 307-733-2664 Teton Mountain Rnge
Avalanche SafetyHeading Out:
- Obtain information about local snow pack conditions, weather, and avalanche hazards.
- Old slide paths indicate a potential for further activity. Look for bent or broken trees and other slide debris. If an area is devoid of ground cover, or it is covered with older trees, it is a potential slide area.
- Avoid hollow-sounding areas and slopes that go "whomp" when you travel over them. This indicates the collapse of weak layers of snow beneath "Death Slabs" waiting for the unwary traveler to set them off.
- Leeward slopes are breeding grounds for avalanches. Beware of any cracks in the snow surface, especially fracture lines that run or appear to be continuous. Cornices often break off well back from their edge on tops of ridges and hills.
- Check for cornice danger and cracks. Do not approach the edge. Detour around all overhanging snow and do not climb beneath corniced areas.
- Avoid slopes whenever possible. Stay to ridge tops or cross in valley bottoms, well away from the slopes.
- Cross one person at a time. This is the first and foremost rule. Do not expose more than one person to the danger at any one time. Assign a person as a lookout.
- Carry a basic survival kit on your person, not in your pack or machine.
- Trail an avalanche cord or carry an activated avalanche beacon when crossing and learn how to use it in a practice situation before starting out. If you are buried, survivors can trace the cord or beacon to locate you.
- Remove pole and ski safety straps if skiing. These items of equipment can easily drag you under and might cause broken bones in a slide situation.
- Undo your pack hip belt and loosen any other equipment. This will enable you to discard anything that might restrict your efforts to stay on top of a slide.
- Zip up all your layers of insulated clothing and put your hat and mitts on.
- Cover your mouth and nostrils with a parka flap or handkerchief.
- Do not assume that because others have crossed safely, there is no danger. They may have disturbed the snow just enough for you to set off a slide. Cross singly; travel quickly between positions of relative security. Rest only in clumps of trees and exposed rock island. The less time you spend exposed to the danger, the less are your chances of being caught.
- To decrease your degree of exposure, do not traverse the slopes. Avoid kicking deep steps for security if on skis or snowshoes; this perforation weakens the snow layers and may lead for the formation of slab fracture.
If You Are Caught In An Avalanche:
- Discard all cumbersome equipment, especially your pack or snow machine.
- Make swimming motions (breast stroke); attempt to stay on the surface of the slide.
- Do not waste vital energy fighting the flow, but rather try to ferry your way to the side of the avalanche path.
- Grab trees, bushes, or rocks to stabilize your position if possible.
- As you feel the slide slowing down, make a last fight to gain the surface.
- Attempt to get a hand above the surface so that others can see it.
- Keep one hand in front of your mouth, and try to clear a breathing space in front of your face to prevent icing up and suffocation.
- Take a slow deep breath and calmly hold it until the snow has settled around you.
- You will be extremely disoriented. Do not waste energy trying to extricate yourself, unless you can see light through the snow.
- Do not panic! Remain calm and wait for assistance.
- Before searching, look for further slide danger and pick a safe escape route. Designate a lookout person to warn of new slides.
- Mark the last spot where the victim was seen.
- Perform a quick search for any clues. Probe briefly with an avalanche probe or inverted ski pole in suspect areas. Search downhill from the marked position, and look for avalanche cord or other signs.
- If applicable, perform an electronic search for an avalanche beacon.
- If the victim is not located, decide whether or not to go for help. Take into consideration the time to reach help, and have help return. Remember that half the avalanche victim’s die in 1/2 hour; many are dead in 5 minutes.
- If your party is large, send two people for help immediately after a quick search has been conducted. Have them mark the route as they go and emphasize that they must hurry, but not at the expense of safeguarding against further avalanches. Contact local authorities or ski patrol that will notify the rescue team.
- Begin a probe search of the victim. Mark all areas as they are probed, and mark any clues that are dug up.
- Primary probing areas are places where slide debris has accumulated. Check the toe of the avalanche, sides of the slide path and all around any exposed obstacles such as trees or rocks. Persons are often hung up in these spots by the current of the avalanche snow flow.
- The remaining group members should begin probing with avalanche probe or inverted ski poles. Probing should be carried out in an organized manner. The correct method of useful probing is to insert the probe in a straight line where each probe is separated by 75 cm (30 inches). Employ all useful members of the party for probing. Designate someone to dig up everything hit with probes.
When An Avalanche Victim Is Found:
- Suffocation - Uncover mouth and clear breathing passages. Perform Artificial Respiration if required.
- Cardiac Arrest - Perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) if qualified to do so.
- Hypothermia - (Be aware of reduced vital signs.) Treat for shock. Insulate victim from further cold exposure (snow, rain, wind). Begin re-warming. Remove wet clothing and apply heat. Give hot liquids if conscious and place in a sleeping bag with another person.
- Treat for mechanical injuries such as bleeding and fractures.
- Do not treat for frostbite - seek medical aid. Evacuate as soon as possible.
Essential Items For Performing Avalanche Rescue:
- Avalanche Probe
- Avalanche Cord or Beacon
- First Aid Kit
- Surveying Tape