Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
We have a lot of avalanche safety tip “listicles” and essays here at WildSnow. To get everyone thinking as well as applying basic consideration in the backcountry, I pulled the following short list out of those posts. We’ve had a couple of exceptional winters here in Colorado in terms of avalanche accidents. Experts debate the reasons for that, instinct tells me it’s a result of many factors: snowpack, luck, etc., but I’m of the opinion that educated skiers adhering to protocols have enhanced the odds in their favor. As in the triad of suggestions below. Discuss? What’s your most common success, or failure?
1. Any one vote against a decision or route changes the group plan — groups always stay together.
2. If you descend first, your odds are worse. Take turns with the firsts, carefully arrange group for observation and quick response. (“I was eating my sandwich and eventually noticed “Bill” wasn’t around…”)
3. Obsess on consequences. A steep run that strainers thorough trees is near certain life changing injury or worse. A lower angled, shorter run without terrain obstacles can be a world of different. If you sport a balloon backpack, this rule is especially important as the airbag, other than perhaps violently bouncing you off a few tree trunks before it shreds, won’t help you one tiny bit during a 60 mph head first ride through a spruce forest. Those same trees are laughing at your “helmet.” Likewise, constant awareness of terrain traps (both small and large) is key.
For more, see our post relating Bruce Tremper’s 10 Commandments of Avalanche Safety.
Also see our extensive avalanche safety coverage.