Avalanches are fast moving snow flows that primarily occur in mountainous regions. They are of particular concern for anyone who wants to venture in those areas. Parks will advise and place warning signs of areas of high risks. Obey the rules.

If you are venturing out into the mountains, be prepared by having the proper skills and equipment along with you. Obviously you should have a proper  pre-trip plan before leaving which you leave with the appropriate people. Be careful to not provoke an avalanche. People actions are usually what cause an avalanche.

Here are some more links to help you to learn more about avalanches.

1. National Snow and Ice Data Center

2. National Geographic

3. Avalanche.ca

4. U.S. SAR Task Force

5. Wikipedia - Avalanches

Avalanches in Canada

The following information is from the Get Prepared site of the Government of Canada 

Thousands of avalanches occur in Canada each year. They happen in all regions of Canada, but are more frequent in the mountains of British Columbia, Yukon and Alberta. Avalanches can be triggered by wind, rain, warming temperatures, snow and earthquakes. They can also be triggered by skiers, snowmobiles, hikers, vibrations from machinery or construction.

Avalanche facts

  • An avalanche occurs when a layer of snow collapses and slides downhill.
  • Avalanches are caused by four factors: a steep slope, snow cover, a weak layer in the snow cover and a trigger.
  • Roads and railway tracks may be rerouted to reduce risks.
  • Safe avalanches may be triggered in dangerous snow packs.
  • Avalanches can travel up to 90 km/h.
  • After one hour, only one in three victims buried in an avalanche is found alive. The most common causes of death are suffocation, wounds and hypothermia.

Avalanche safety

  • If you are planning to travel in backcountry, take an avalanche safety course.
  • When traveling in backcountry, always travel in a group. Ensure you have an experienced group leader. Always stay within view of your group.
  • When driving, observe the sign "Avalanche Area-Do Not Stop."
  • Drive carefully in avalanche areas. Avalanches may reach the road without warning.
  • Obey road closures. When the avalanche hazard is high, control work by explosives may be carried out at any time.
  • If an avalanche blocks the highway, remain in your vehicle with seat belts on. Wait for assistance. It is easier to find a car in the snow than it is to find a person. Drive to a safe area if possible.
  • Avoid driving through even small avalanches.
  • If you live on a farm, moving livestock away from those areas when risks are present is recommended.
  • There is seldom time for management or animal reaction during the event. If pastures, pens or egress road are below a slope that is steep and accumulates snow, be cautious when heavy snow falls on old frozen snow and is then followed by a warm period.

What to do in case of an avalanche

If you become caught in an avalanche, try to:

  • Push machinery, equipment or heavy objects away from you to avoid injury.
  • Grab onto anything solid (trees, rocks, etc.) to avoid being swept away.
  • Keep your mouth closed and your teeth clenched.
  • If you start moving downward with the avalanche, stay on the surface using a swimming motion.
  • Try to move yourself to the side of the avalanche.

When the avalanche slows, attempt to:

  • Push yourself towards the surface.
  • Make an air pocket in front of your face using one arm.
  • Push the other arm towards the surface.

When the avalanche stops, begin to:
  • Dig yourself out, if possible.
  • Relax your breathing, particularly if you cannot dig yourself out.
  • Stay calm and shout only when a searcher is near.

Include this page in your emergency plan

If you live or are planning a vacation in a mountainous region, print this information and include copies in your emergency plan and emergency kit.


Skier Caught In An Avalanche