Steps to follow if you are trapped in an avalanche! I Love Ski has interwied Olivier Mariande, Mountain Rescuer that will give us some advices and precautions to take for cross-country skiing beginners with all the security and the advices if you are caught in an avalanche.

Olivier, which precautions you will give to a beginner skier with all security?

Olivier M. : Prepare your trip, informe yourself about about everything (with the professional, with the local professionals, internet, notices about the avalanche risk, weather forecast, terrain analysis, etc. Be physically prepared and be sure your material is in good quality and security and you know how to use it (DVA* victims detector, airbag ABS**, ARVA kit with shovel and probe, and RECCO*** system).

ABS system allowing to remain on th surfice in case of avalanche

You must be aware of the prevention messages broadcasted during winter season until the last snowflakes melt. The basic rule is to not go alone in any case and to always inform someone of your planned itinerary.

The skier will also adapt your trip to the physique condition of the moment (knowledge of the terrain, slope). If you are a beginner, the best advice is to start a skiing trainning (out of slopes, cross-country) with an experienced friend, with a mountain club or to contact some mountain professionals (high moutain guide) during some days of discovering.

This will be the occasion to learn the progess techniques in group, security advices (for exemple using the security equipments as DVA) and learning the good habits to adopt in order to start your trip calmly. Last advice I could give to beginner skiers would be to renounce if the conditions look suspicious.

Which advice would you give to a victim trapped in an avalanche?

Olivier : First of all, to be perfectly equipped with the security material (DVA, ABS, RECCO), to never leave for a trip alone and to announce your route, so that your colleagues can initite the search and recue you as soon as possible. is will be the first rescuers! It might take long minutes before the arrival of the organised rescuers.

The first 15 minutes, the chance of survival is around 91%. After that, there are different operating modes to increase the chances of survival. The first advice is to avoid being buried by the avalanche, to achieve this here are the steps to be followed:

  • If the fracture of the snow cover takes place under your feet, jumps/run in direction of the top of the avalanche.
  • If the avalanche was unleashed at a certain distance, and you have time to see the mass of snow rolling down, run to the sides as soon as possible.

-If you can not avoid the avalanche, try to fight againt the snow so that you can stay on the surface. The skis and poles have the characteristique to work as an “anchor to the snow” and they’ll push you to the deep avalanche. This snow mass rolls as a wave, with a rotation cycle from top to bottom. Try to get rid of the equipment material that will unavoidably drive you inside the avalanche and move towards the surface.

Once everything is calm down, snow can become as hard as cement. It is crucial to ensure an air bag around your face. This will protect the airways once you are blocked. If you are blocked on this situation, try to stay calm. It’s easier said than done, we agree, but this will allow you to conserve the maximum oxygen during long waiting minutes. You never have so stay passive in a avalanche.

We have to remind that the mountain is a fabulous playing field but there are a couple of rules to be respected. Progressing with security is a priority for everyone who has choose to progress on this amazing ground in constant progression. Whitout forgeting there are professionals to warn us of risks, to help us discover new sensations and sharing their passion for the mountain.

* DVA : Avalanche Transceiver
** ABS : Anti-lock Braking System in case of avalanche
*** RECCO : This systeme is composed of 2 parts: a RECCO® deetector used by the rescuers and some clothing reflectors, helmet, protection equipment and shoes. The reflectors are permanent and does not need batteries (source: RECCO).