About Us  |  Contact Us  |  FAQ's  |  Newsroom

[design image slice] U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service on faded trees in medium light green background [design image slice] more faded trees
[design image] green box with curved corner
[design image] green and cream arch
 
Regulations.gov
   
Employee Search
Information Center
National Offices and Programs
Phone Directory
Regional Offices
   
   
   
 

US Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C.
20250-0003

(800) 832-1355

 
  USA dot Gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web Portal.
   

Enjoy winter on a national forest, but donít become an avalanche statistic


Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back, not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear.  (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back,
not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear.
(U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

Posted by Keith Riggs, Office of Communication, U.S. Forest Service


It’s early into the winter sports season and already there are stories of avalanche victims on the nation’s slopes.


But there are some steps you can take to keep your name and those of your companions out of the statistics record.


The U.S. Forest Service is a partner in the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, an effort to encourage children and adults to take lessons to improve their skills. Knowing about avalanches is vital to your safety.


The first step is to know before you go.  If you’re venturing onto the backcountry trails on U.S. Forest Service lands, check with the local Forest Service office to learn about the conditions in the area you’re going to visit. Many national forests have their own avalanche information centers.

   
Secondly is to be prepared. Everyone in your party must have and know how to use a shovel, a probe and an avalanche beacon. Be sure that all members can perform a fast and effective rescue by practicing BEFORE you go out.


And thirdly, travel wisely. Practice low-risk travel on the snow by staying on low-angle terrain. That means eliminating and/or minimizing your exposure to avalanche terrain and never exposing more than one person at a time to potential avalanche danger.

Always carry a beacon, a shovel and a probe pole. Seriously consider wearing a helmet (nearly 30 percent of avalanche fatalities are caused by trauma) and wearing an Avalung, which can help you breathe up to one hour if you are completely buried by snow.  Wear releasable bindings...If your skis and snowboard stay on in an avalanche, the impact is akin to jumping into a lake with them on – you’re much more apt to get pulled to the bottom. So wear releasable bindings. (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

Always carry a beacon, a shovel and a probe pole. Seriously consider wearing a helmet (nearly 30
percent of avalanche fatalities are caused by trauma) and wearing an Avalung, which can help you
breathe up to one hour if you are completely buried by snow. Wear releasable bindings...If your skis
and snowboard stay on in an avalanche, the impact is akin to jumping into a lake with them on Ė
youíre much more apt to get pulled to the bottom. So wear releasable bindings.
(U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)


For further protection, Forest Service winter sports specialist Dennis Hogan strongly suggests that you and your partners get training and take an avalanche class before you head out.  This will help you better understand avalanche red flags.


 “That means watching for changing conditions whenever the weather, snowpack or terrain changes,” Hogan said. “It also means being flexible and ready to change your plans if you run into any of the red flags.” 


“The importance of knowing when to turn back and try again later when conditions are unstable is a critical part of safe backcountry travel,” Hogan said. “Make sure everyone in your group talks to each other and discusses what is going on and how these changes may impact your trip.”


Learning to recognize safe terrain is the first and most important step in avalanche hazard evaluation.


Knowing what weather has occurred in the past can give a sense if the snowpack is likely to avalanche.  Likewise, weather forecasts give some indication of how future weather events may affect the snowpack. The Forest Service National Avalanche Center  gives much more detail about snowpack stability.

A slab avalanche triggered by a snowmobile. (Friends of Bridget-Teton Avalanche Center)

A slab avalanche triggered by a snowmobile. (Friends of Bridget-Teton Avalanche Center)


Hogan concludes, “Remember, travel in avalanche terrain can be dangerous and an avalanche course can help you reduce your chance of having an accident by providing a framework to asses and manage your risk.”
More information can be found here: 

 

US Forest Service
Last modified January 08, 2014
http://www.fs.fed.us

[graphic] USDA logo, which links to the department's national site. [graphic] Forest Service logo, which links to the agency's national site. [graphic] A link to the US Forest Service home page.