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10 Steps for a Worst-Case Avalanche Scenario

Published On: Dec 29 2013 06:29:03 PM AKST

Channel 2's Lacie Grosvold catches up with an avalanche safety expert


The Alaska Avalanche School offers three-day courses in avalanche rescue and survival.

Channel 2 attended a back-country session of a course on Sunday, Dec. 29, when instructor Nick D'Alessio listed some rules that are helpful for anyone wandering off the beaten path in Alaska.

The ideal situation is of course to avoid dangerous avalanche conditions all together, but there are a 10 useful tips to stay safe if there is a worst-case scenario:

10. Always have a beacon, probe and shovel, and know how to use them well. The only way to become proficient is simple: "Practice, practice, practice."

9. Keep a shovel inside your backpack. If you fall or get caught in an avalanche, a shovel can be the first thing to go unless it is properly stowed.

8. Every time you go out, put your beacon and probe in the same part of your pack. That way you won't need to waste time digging if there is an emergency.

7. Don't use lithium batteries in your beacon, as they can inaccurately display the power level.

6. Change your beacon's batteries when they reach halfway empty.

5. If you make your way out of an avalanche, be sure to keep an eye out for your friends. Take note of the spot where you last see them and search downhill from there.

4. Take a calming breath and approach the rescue thoughtfully rather than panicking. Move fast after that, as you may not have much time. 

3. When your shovel and beacon are out, stab them into the snow to prevent your tools from sliding downhill.

2. Anyone who was buried by an avalanche should be taken to a medical professional immediately, even if they seem in good health.

1. Avalanche airbags are not foolproof to avoid getting buried. Be sure you know how and when to use an airbag before you need to.

Above all, remember: using rescue gear is a last resort. Instructors say you should use every precaution to avoid avalanche conditions, and be sure to get training from someone with experience