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Experts remind adventurers to practice avalanche safety

Experts remind adventurers to practice avalanche safety



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Amanda Butterfield reporting Another tragic avalanche death this week represents a troubling trend on the mountains. Avalanche death rates for snowmobilers have steadily increased, while those for backcountry skiers have declined.

Whatever your sport, here are some life-saving tips if you are swept up in an avalanche.

The recent danger of avalanches is due to the weak base of snow we have and all the fresh snow coming down on top if it. The Utah Avalanche Center advises that only avalanche experts go high in the unmarked mountains the rest of the week.

Brett Kobernik, an avalanche forecaster, said, "We're dealing with a rising avalanche danger over the next couple of days."

And if you're not experienced, stay away. That's what Kobernik advises. "If folks are not experienced or expert level, they should avoid the backcountry," he said.

But if you do go up in the backcountry any time this winter, be sure to carry a shovel, probe and beacon. They're things Sam Sondrup, a certified technician at REI, would never go out of boundaries without.

So worst case scenario: You're in an avalanche. What do you do? "If you're lucky, you'll feel it break and notice it right when it happens, and hopefully you can just ski off of it," Sondrup said.

Still, you might get swept away. In that case, Sondrup says you should, "fight, swim, fight as hard as you can; don't give up." And then put your arm up over your mouth.

"Going like this creates a pocket, and what you want to do is create a pocket to breathe in cause when the snow hardens up people die from asphyxiation," Sondrup said.

And also try to throw your arm up "A lot of people get buried like a foot under the snow, so if your hand is up you'll see fingertips," he added

And have you ever seen an Avalung? You put it in your mouth when you're in high avalanche danger conditions. Then if you are swept away and trapped in snow, you breath through your mouth, and the carbon dioxide is released down, so you have more fresh air.

You can sign up for classes on avalanche danger at any local outdoor store.

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