Fact or Fiction: Surviving an Avalanche

Staff

Most deadly avalanches come out of nowhere -- there's really no way to predict them.

Avalanches are actually fairly predictable, and most are triggered by their victims

Most avalanches start on 35- to 45-degree slopes.

True. You can buy an inclinometer that will measure any given slope for you.

If you're skiing in an avalanche-prone area, one partner should always ski above the other for greater visibility.

By skiing above your partner, you could trigger an avalanche that would bury him or her.

Testing snowpack stability is a job for professionals -- don't try to figure out avalanche probabilty yourself.

You'll learn how to test the snowpack in an avalanche safety course, and the U.S. Forest Service also has online tutorials.

Avalanche beacons are available, but they're not that useful in most situations.

Beacons are very effective. Everyone who heads into the backcountry should have a beacon, shovel and probe.

Most avalanche victims survive if they get out within 45 minutes.

Ninety-two percent of avalanche victims survive if they're rescued within 15 minutes. That number goes down to 25 percent after 45 minutes.

If you're buried, you'll be able to live for about 18 minutes.

Yes, 18 minutes is about the limit. Scary.

The main causes of avalanche-related fatalities are physical trauma and hypothermia.

Add suffocation to that list.

If an avalanche is coming up behind you while you're skiing, you should try to outski it.

If you're in a snowmobile you can try to outrun an avalanche, but if you're skiing, you should turn and try to get out of the way.

If you're trying to escape an avalanche, keep your mouth open so you can get as much air as you can.

You should shut your mouth tight to keep snow from blocking your airway.

You realize that you can't escape the avalanche. The first thing you should do is get rid of your skis.

Yes, lose the ski equipment as quickly as possible -- it'll weigh you down and make it harder for you to maneuver your body. But keep your pack with you if it has emergency supplies in it.

If you're on a snowmobile, you should get off of it, but keep it near you.

You'll want to get away from your snowmobile -- it might end up crushing you.

As the avalanche approaches, cup your hand around your mouth and nose.

Cupping your hand around your mouth and nose will provide you with an air pocket as the snow covers you.

When the snow stops, try to make your way to the surface with a swimming motion.

Yes. Do anything you can to get yourself to the surface.

Call for help constantly -- you never know when rescuers will be near.

You need to conserve oxygen, so wait to call for help until you hear people above you.

When you breathe under the snow, your warm breath refreezes the snow into a more solid ice that oxygen can't get through.

Yes, this is true. So although you might be able to breathe fairly well at first, it gets more and more difficult as oxygen fails to penetrate the ice.

Avalanche victims can get carbon dioxide poisoning from rebreathing their exhaled air.

You might be OK if you have an air pocket that's open to the outside, but if not, you do run the risk of carbon dioxide poisoning.

There's a device called the AvaLung that can give you extra oxygen in the event of an avalanche.

The AvaLung actually blows exhaled carbon dioxide behind you, so you don't breathe it in again.

Wearing an inflatable vest could help you stay closer to the top of a moving avalanche.

Yes, the bigger you are, the more likely you are to stay closer to the top of an avalanche. A vest could also help you avoid trauma.

An avalanche probe is an electronic device that helps you find buried victims.

It's actually a 10- to 12-foot folding pole that you can use to find solid objects buried in the snow.

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About This Quiz

The popular vision of avalanches is one of deadly unpredictability, but that's not totally true. Avalanches are deadly, but there are steps you can take to avoid causing one -- and they are possible to survive if you're prepared. Would you know what to do if an avalanche is hurtling toward you?

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