How To Be Prepared For An Avalanche [Complete Guide]

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How To Be Prepared For An Avalanche [Complete Guide]
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If you are traveling to the snowy expanse of mountainous terrain, the danger of avalanches underscores the need for preparedness. Most hikers learn how to be  prepared for an avalanche to mitigate the risks and save their lives. From recognizing the avalanche forecast to assessing the terrain before hiking, there are several important preparations that one has to make before navigating the treacherous terrain.

When it comes to taking the right measures to survive an avalanche while skiing or in a car, the most important aspect is having a power source that lets you charge your emergency gear. Jackery Solar Generators are designed so that one can carry them on outdoor adventures, and they can power up to 99% of your emergency appliances.

Understanding Avalanche Facts

An avalanche is a rapid flow of snow down a sloped surface, typically a mountainside. An avalanche is triggered by several factors, like weather conditions, snowpack instability, and even human activities [choosing the wrong skiing location or destroying the landscape]. A typical avalanche occurs when layers of snow accumulate and then suddenly release.

Avalanches can vary in size and speed, ranging from small and slow-moving to large and fast-moving masses of snow. Depending on their size and speed, most avalanches can cause significant destruction to life, property, or anything in their path.

In the United States, avalanches pose a significant risk particularly in regions with mountainous terrain and heavy snowfall, like Utah and Colorado. As per a report by National Geographic, in the mountains of the western United States, there are about 100,000 avalanches every year. In 2023, a total of 30 reported people allegedly died as a result of an avalanche in the United States alone.

Colorado Avalanche

Colorado is known for its Rocky Mountains, which experience its share of avalanches yearly. One of the most devastating Colorado avalanches occurred in March 2019, when the rapid flow of snow struck near Interstate 70 in Summit County. The devastation was so severe that it buried a section of the highway under 20 feet of snow.

The number of avalanches that reportedly occur yearly is based on reports collected by the Colorado Avalanche Center over the last decade. For 2024, Colorado officials have issued several special avalanche advisories because since January 2024, the state has seen about 905 avalanches, and the number may cross 3,600 during the entire season.

Avalanches can be triggered by various factors, both natural and human-induced. However, understanding the primary causes of avalanches can mitigate the risk and avoid going to the avalanche-prone terrain during the skiing season.

Here are some primary causes behind avalanches:

Snowpack Instability

Snowpack instability is one of the primary causes behind a sudden avalanche. This instability occurs due to several factors, like rapid change in temperature, wind-loading, snowfall, or even the presence of weak layers within the entire snowpack. When the bond between different layers of snow is weak, it increases the likelihood of sudden release, which leads to an avalanche.

Weather Conditions

Different weather conditions create different scenarios that lead to an avalanche. Some weather conditions, like heavy snowfall, rapid warming, or rain on snow, can also weaken the snowpack, triggering avalanches. In most cases, heavy snowfall can overload the snowpack and further increase the risk of avalanches.

Terrain Features

As per Colorado avalanche reports, the terrains with steep or convex slopes, gullies, and couloirs are more prone to avalanches than others. These terrains accumulate snow and are prone to loading from wind and snowfall, which makes them more susceptible to sudden avalanches.

Human Activities

Snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, and even hiking can often trigger avalanches in recreational areas such as backcountry terrain or ski resorts. When travelers visit these areas without proper knowledge or equipment, they accidentally venture into avalanche-prone terrain.

Natural Triggers

Several natural factors trigger an avalanche. For instance, earthquakes, rockfall, and cornice collapses in several northern states in the United States have destabilized the snowpack, leading to avalanche release.

preparation for an avalanche

What Are The Risks of An Avalanche?

From complete disability to death, there are several risks associated with avalanches. Such natural disasters can pose a significant danger to anyone in their path. By understanding the risks and recognizing the signs of an impending avalanche, one can stay safe and prepared when they travel in and around the avalanche-prone terrain.

Some common risks and dangers associated with an avalanche are:

Injury or Fatality

As one can understand, avalanches can cause severe injuries and even fatalities to anyone caught in their paths. According to a report by FEMA, avalanches have reportedly claimed the lives of an average of 28 people each winter season in the United States over the last decade. The sudden force of an avalanche can bury individuals under tons of snow, which leads to trauma, asphyxiation, and death due to hypothermia.

Trauma & Entrapment

Avalanches and similar accidents can result in trauma caused by debris like rocks and trees. Additionally, it becomes difficult for the rescuers to locate and extricate victims in time when they get entrapped multiple feet below because of the avalanche debris.

Snow Immersion Suffocation

If someone gets caught in the path of an avalanche, they get pushed and later buried deep under the snow. During this stage, they get trapped in an air pocket or cavity. However, as the surrounding snow settles, the air supply diminishes, which leads to suffocation despite being buried relatively close to the surface level.

Hypothermia

Exposure to cold temperatures while waiting for the rescuers to come and help can lead to hypothermia.  According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2011, 16,911 deaths in the United States were associated with exposure to excessive natural cold. In this death toll count, deaths due to hypothermia caused by an avalanche are significantly higher.

Terrain Hazards

During the avalanche, several environmental debris, like trees and rocks, also downslope. These terrain hazards can also increase the risk of injuries and entrapment. For instance, someone can get entrapped below a huge tree branch that was brought down by an avalanche.

Signs of an Avalanche

There are several other noticeable risks involved with avalanches. However, several important signs can help hikers understand the path and avoid avalanche-prone terrain.

Recent Avalanches

Before planning a hike or Skiing trip, one should observe avalanche activities in the area. Check previous reports from the official government website and avoid going to those places. At the same time, you can also check for debris or fresh avalanche tracks in the terrain. If you find a lot of debris and unstable snow conditions, you can analyze that that particular area is more prone to new avalanches.

Cracking Snow

You can use your skiing equipment to test the snow layers. If you can feel the snow crack or if the parts of it collapse beneath your feet, then you should avoid going forward. Such a feeling of snow crack suggests the presence of weak snow layers that increase the chances of an avalanche in the near future.

Snowpack Instability

Check for the snowpack instability signs, like collapsing snow layers, hollow sounds, the presence of weak layers, and faceted crystals in your terrain path. These signs of instability indicate an increased risk of avalanche activities.

Rapid Change in Weather

Rapid changes in the weather, like sudden rain or snowfall or even rapid warming, can also destabilize the snowpack. These sudden changes in the weather can also increase the likelihood of avalanches.

Wind Loading

The heavy winds can transport snow that accumulates on leeward slopes. The continuation of such wind-transported snow can lead to the formation of thick slabs that also increase the risk of avalanche release in that particular leeward slope.

Here is an easy table to illustrate the risk of an avalanche:

Risk Level

Indication

What Should You Know?

LOW

 Stable snow with isolation from instability

 No recent debris

 Human-created avalanches are unlikely

 Hiking or Skiing is safe with proper gear

 Suitable caution is advised.

MODERATE

 Unstable snow on steep terrain

 No recent debris

 Possibility of human-triggered avalanches

 Hike or Skii under supervision

 Carry all the emergency gears

 Use caution in steeper terrain

CONSIDERABLE

 Unstable snow slabs

 Possibility of natural avalanches

 Possibility of human-triggered avalanches

 Stay increasingly cautious in steeper terrain

 Use emergency gear if needed

HIGH

 Unstable snow slabs at different slope angles

 Possibility of natural and human-triggered avalanches

 Travel of any kind is not recommended

EXTREME

 Extremely unstable snow slabs

 The presence of large avalanche debris

 Widespread natural and human-triggered avalanches are certain

 Travel in avalanche terrain should be avoided

 Confined to low-angle terrain areas

 signs and risks of avalanche

Protect Yourself From an Avalanche

Whether navigating unexplored mountain roads, planning a ski trip with family, or even seeking refuge at home, understanding how to prepare for an avalanche can mean the difference between survival and tragedy. By equipping them with essential avalanche gear and creating a plan for action, one can stand ready to confront the challenges that come with avalanches.

Here's how to prepare for an avalanche during different scenarios:

On the Road

If you are traveling through such an area where there are chances that you might encounter a sudden avalanche, there are certain precautionary methods that you can follow. For instance:

Stay Informed

Always be informed about the weather and avalanche forecast before you travel through mountainous areas.

Road Conditions

If possible, check road conditions on different navigation maps that provide 3D overviews. You can also check location authorities or transportation departments to learn about road conditions.

Carry Emergency Supplies

When traveling to avalanche-prone areas in your car or an RV, you should equip yourself with emergency supplies, like a first aid kit, drinking water, flashlight, blanket, food, etc.

During Skiing

Most people get injured or have a fatal accident when they come in the path of an avalanche during Skiing. There are several important precautionary measures one can take during Skiing to mitigate the risk of getting trapped under the heavy layers of snow.

Check Forecast

Always plan your Skiing after checking the forecast. Start analyzing the forecast at least 4-7 days before your trip, then 3 days before actually going there, and then 24 hours before Skiing. If you find changes in these forecasts that indicate some chances of sudden rain or snowfall, then it is better to avoid Skiing during that time.

Know Your Risks

Analyze the avalanche-associated risk by considering different factors, like weather conditions, snowpack stability, and terrain features.

Take Safety Gear

Before heading on a skiing trip, always equip yourself with essential gear, like an avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel. You should also carry a Jackery Solar Generator that ensures that all of your emergency appliances, like navigation devices, portable heaters, smartphones, etc., are powered up.

Make a Plan

Before planning a skiing trip, develop a detailed trip plan. This plan will include the understanding of your routes, objectives, and the first call of action during any emergency situations. You can even share this skiing trip plan with your friends and family, who can come to your aid in case you find yourself in the midst of an avalanche.

Have Professional Training

Do not go to dangerous terrain without professional training. Through professional training, you can learn to recognize avalanche terrain, prepare for an avalanche, and perform rescue techniques during an avalanche.

Have a Guide

If it fits your budget and schedule, consider hiring a certified guide with local knowledge and expertise. A proper guide will help you navigate the rough areas and lead your snowboarding and skiing expedition in avalanche terrain.

At Home

If you live in an area that is prone to avalanches, then there are different emergency guidelines that you should follow. Here is how you can prepare for an avalanche when you are at home:

Stay Informed

Make sure that you and your entire family are well-educated and informed about avalanches. Discuss the safety places and preparedness with them in detail. Ensure that the children at home also understand the emergency steps they must take in case of an avalanche.

Emergency Supplies

Ensure that you bring all the emergency supplies beforehand. Consider getting a month-long ration, a first aid kit, over-the-counter medication, and a Jackery Solar Generator. In case there is a sudden electricity blackout due to the avalanche, a Jackery Solar Generator can help power up important household appliances, like room heaters, CPAP machines, Sump Pumps, refrigerators, etc.

Emergency Plan & Drills

Gather your family and conduct small emergency drills so everyone is informed about the emergency plan and route to follow during an avalanche.

Avalanche Barriers

Consider installing avalanche barriers or mitigation measures around your property to minimize the risks associated with an avalanche. At the same time, stay informed about weather forecasts and avalanche warnings in your area.

prepare for an avalanche

Jackery Solar Generators for Emergencies

Jackery is a global brand specializing in solar generators, solar panels, and portable power stations. Since its inception, Jackery has sold more than 4 million units and has been awarded by notable media houses. With a wide range of solar generators and portable power stations, Jackery provides a one-stop solution for all your battery backup needs.

A Jackery Solar Generator is ideal for powering your small and large appliances. Built with an intelligent BMS system and pure sine wave inverter that converts the gathered solar energy via Jackery SolarSaga Solar Panels, these solar generators provide an unrivaled cooling system and are ideal for working at 10 °F to 104 °F temperature, making them ideal during avalanche or related emergencies.

Jackery Explorer 2000 Plus Portable Power Station

The Jackery Explorer 2000 Plus Portable Power Station is ideal for off-grid living and powering your household appliances during extended blackouts caused by avalanches. These portable power stations can be expanded once attached with an additional battery pack, helping you to even power up heavy-duty appliances, like an electric water heater (4500W) or electric cloth dryer (3000W).

The Jackery Explorer 2000 Plus Portable Power Stations has an Emergency Power Supply (EPS) that automatically starts powering up your appliances within 20ms of power cuts.

Let's consider a scenario where you are stuck at home during an avalanche and need to power up your appliances. With a Jackery Explorer 2000 Plus Portable Power Station, you can power up your multiple appliances and each will provide a different working hour. For instance:

  • Dishwasher (1500W): 1.1 H
  • Electric Kettle (1200W): 1.4 H
  • Coffee Machine (1000W): 1.7 H
  • Desktop Computer (500W): 3.4 H
  • Incandescent Light Bulb (100W): 17.3 H
  • Two-Way Radio (50W): 34.7 H
  • Flashlight (10W): 173.6 H

jackery explorer 2000 plus portable power station for how to prepare for an avalanche

Customer Review:

"I just received my Jackery Explorer 2000 Plus and 2000 Plus battery pack. The shipping was fast, and the packages came in 100% in perfect condition. I was impressed with the quality of the units." -- Steven Chlebowski.

Jackery Explorer 1000 Plus Portable Power Station

If you are looking for a more portable unit, then the Jackery Explorer 1000 Plus Portable Power Station is ideal for home or outdoor emergencies you might face if you are stuck in an avalanche. The Jackery Explorer 1000 Plus Portable Power Station is a portable unit that can be carried in a car or an RV and supports charging up to 99% of your appliances.

With a long-lasting and reliable battery, the Jackery Explorer 1000 Plus Portable Power Station is versatile and can charge your portable coolers, CPAP, air fryers, etc. With a Whisper Quiet mode and reliable backup power, this portable power station is a great companion that ensures safety and convenience during critical situations.

Let's consider a scenario where you plan to use Jackery Explorer 1000 Plus Portable Power Station to charge your appliances. Here are the working hours that you will get during indoor or outdoor emergencies:

  • Coffee Machine (1000W): 1.0 H
  • Toaster (850W): 1.2 H
  • Desktop Computer (500W): 2.1 H
  • Dehumidifier (280W): 3.8 H
  • Incandescent Light Bulb (100W): 10.7 H
  • Two-Way Radio (50W): 21.4 H
  • LED Bulb (23W): 46.7 H
  • Flashlight (10W): 107.4 H

jackery explorer 1000 plus portable power station for how to prepare for an avalanche

Customer Review

"Received my Explorer Plus 1000 promptly & in great condition. It was charged to 29% and only took 2 hrs to charge to 100% using the AC charger." -- Pauline Mulanix.

Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Portable Power Station

A Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Portable Power Station is ideal for camping, picnicking, and powering mid-range appliances in an emergency. It weighs only 8.27 lbs and can be carried in the emergency essentials you make for skiing trips.

The Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Portable Power Station features a dual PD port capable of up to 100W output, supporting fast charging for multiple devices simultaneously, making it a useful portable unit to be carried around in your car during an avalanche.

A Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Portable Power Station can charge several important appliances. Here are the working hours that you will get during indoor or outdoor emergencies:

  • Incandescent Light Bulb (100W): 2.4 H
  • Two-Way Radio (50W): 4.8 H
  • Smartphone (30W): 8.1 H
  • LED Bulb (23W): 10.6 H
  • Ventilator (20W): 12.2 H
  • Flashlight (10W): 24.4 H

jackery explorer 300 plus portable power station for how to prepare for an avalanche

Customer Review

"The unit's well built, lightweight, and very reliable. I have many plans in mind for this unit, from camping to road trips and equipment backup. I highly recommend this unit." -- Stanley Daniel.

What Should You Do During An Avalanche?

If you find yourself stuck in an avalanche, there are several measures that you can take to ensure your safety. From finding a safe place to using the right emergency equipment, there are different actions that you can take that make a difference between survival and tragedy. Here's what you should do in three common scenarios:

On the Road

If you are traveling through a mountaineer road where there is a possibility of an avalanche or if you are traveling in a car or an RV and find yourself in an avalanche's path, here is what you should be doing:

  • Pull over the side of the road and turn off the engine.
  • If you have enough time, exit your vehicle and move to a safe location.
  • If you cannot escape your car, fasten your seatbelts and duck below the window.
  • Use Jackery Solar Generator to quickly power up your emergency gears.

During Outdoor Adventure

If you get stuck in an avalanche during an outdoor adventure, here is what you should be doing to save yourself:

  • Immediately, try to move to the side of the avalanche path.
  • Try holding or grabbing onto something sturdy to anchor yourself.
  • You can even attempt to 'swim' on the surface of the moving snow.
  • Discard all the heavy gear, as it may weigh you down.
  • Deploy your avalanche gear, like a transceiver, probe, and shovel.

At Home

If you are at home and get a weather forecast about an avalanche in your area, you can take the following precautionary measures to ensure the safety of every resident:

  • Move to the lowest level of your home.
  • Close all the windows and doors to minimize the risk of getting hit by flying debris.
  • Use Jackery Solar Generator to power up your emergency appliances.
  • Follow the instructions provided by the local authorities.
  • Stay informed about weather changes and equate the premises if needed.

What Should You Do After An Avalanche?

Once the avalanche has passed, it is crucial to take immediate action to ensure the safety of everyone. Here are some practical tips for what to do after an avalanche:

Assess Your Situation

First, you should check yourself and others for injuries. Take a first aid kit from your emergency essentials and administer it according to the injuries. You can further take stock of your surroundings and assess the extent of the damage done by the avalanche. Do not move to sloppy areas, as they might have unstable snow or additional avalanche risks.

Locate and Assist Victims

Take your avalanche emergency gear and start searching and rescuing others who are buried under the snow. Only perform this activity if you are trained in a rescue operation. Otherwise, you can move yourself to safety and wait for the rescue team to come and help the others.

Communicate and Call for Help

Take the use of signaling devices, like whistles, emergency glow sticks, and even shots to attract attention from the others. If you have a two-way radio or a smartphone in your gear, you can use them to call for emergency services.

How To Prepare for an Avalanche FAQs

What size of solar generator do I need for an avalanche?

The size of the solar generator needed for an avalanche depends on your specific power requirements and the duration of use. With a Jackery Portable Power Station, you can power different appliances for your emergency needs.

Let's consider that you are using a Jackery Explorer 2000 Plus Portable Power Station at home or outdoors when you are stuck in an avalanche emergency.

To understand the size of a solar generator you would need, you can calculate the working hours that you will get when you charge multiple appliances simultaneously, such as a coffee machine (1000W), light bulb (100W), two-way radio (50W), and flashlight (10W).

Working Hours = Battery Capacity in Wh * 0.85 / Wattage Consumption of the Appliances

Working Hours = 2042.8Wh * 0.85 / 1160W = 1.4 H.

Note: The total battery capacity of the portable power station is multiplied by 0.85 because some power is lost during the appliances' initial charging.

How do you avoid being caught in an avalanche?

The first step is to check the avalanche forecast in your or the traveling area. The second is to always travel with experienced companions and carry safety gear.

What 3 things do you need for an avalanche to occur?

Three main factors are required for an avalanche to occur: Slope with a steep angle, Snowpack with varying densities of snow, and Triggering factors such as heavy snowfall or rapid warming.

What not to do during an avalanche?

During an avalanche, avoiding actions that could increase your risk of injury or reduce your chances of survival is essential. For instance, you should not attempt to outrun or outski the avalanche. You should always deploy the avalanche airbags or other safety devices before the avalanche comes near your camp.

Should you try to dig yourself out of an avalanche?

No, you should not attempt to dig yourself out if you are stuck in an avalanche. If caught in an avalanche, your chances of survival are higher if you can stay on the surface of the moving snow and create an air pocket around your face. Try to remain calm and conserve energy.

Safe Guide For Avalanche

Learning and exploring the tips on how to prepare for an avalanche not only saves your life, but will also train you to save the lives of others. From understanding different factors to prepare for an avalanche to taking care of yourself when you are stuck at home, in a car, or on an outdoor adventure, preparations for an avalanche will mitigate the risk and increase the chance of survival.

When you make an emergency essential kit for an avalanche, you can include a Jackery Portable Power Station. These portable power stations provide eco-friendly power and are ideal for household emergencies, camping, picnics, and other emergencies caused by avalanches.

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