Massive avalanches are often filmed by skiers and people snowboarding with a GoPro. Little do they know how close to death they come.
What is it?
An avalanche, also known as a snowslide or snowslip, is an extremely rapid flow of snow coming down a hill or mountainside. It’s caused by a sudden change in snowpack from skiers and snowmobilers as well as strong winds, heavy snowfall, or a rapid change in the area’s temperature. They can descend up to 80 mph and devour you within seconds.
Where is it located?
Avalanches occur during wintertime from December to April when weak bonds in the snow form an unstable foundation. Mountains sitting at between a 30-45 degree angle–or where most people like to sky and sled–are what typically form the danger zone of where avalanches take place as seen by the footage caught on camera.
How will an avalanche kill you?
Most victims of avalanches are skiers and snowmobilers with a mortality rate of 90%. A third of the deaths are due to trauma, while the rest occur from being buried alive and suffocating due to lack of oxygen and the victim’s inability to find their way out of the snow.
How to survive:
If you find yourself in the middle of an avalanche, start thrashing your arms and kicking your feet in a swimming motion in an attempt to keep yourself at the surface of the snow. If it’s too late and you’ve been buried, dig as big of an air pocket as possible around your face in order to give yourself as much room as you can to breathe. Being tossed and buried in the snow can completely disorient you, so your next step is to find out which way is up by spitting and observing which direction your saliva falls. When snow settles it’s like concrete so if you’re able to, dig yourself out. Otherwise you’ll have to wait until help arrives so they can dig you out.