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How to Survive an Avalanche

While the snow-covered mountains can be exhilarating, they can also be dangerous. Here's what to do to stay safe.


  • Step 1: Take an avalanche course The best way to avoid an avalanche is to avoid starting one. Take an avalanche safety course online or with an instructor affiliated with the American Avalanche Association.
  • Step 2: Know the causes Know the three environmental factors that must occur for an avalanche to happen: The terrain must be steeper than 30 degrees, the snow must be unstable, and a trigger must cause the snow to collapse.
  • Step 3: Buy an avalanche beacon Before you head out, make sure you are carrying an avalanche beacon with you, which will send out a signal if you are trapped under snow.
  • TIP: You can also carry an Avalanche Airbag System, which weighs about 5 pounds, and helps you stay on top of the snow in the event of an avalanche.
  • Step 4: Travel in a group If you're skiing or trekking in backcountry, travel in a group. But, remember to tackle a slope one by one so that you minimize the risk of triggering an avalanche, or of multiple people being buried beneath one.
  • Step 5: Move aside and hold on If an avalanche starts, stay on your feet. Get yourself to the side of the avalanche immediately, whether it's above or below you. Grab onto an immobile object, like a tree or boulder.
  • Step 6: Resist the slide If you are getting towed under, try to thrust a part of your body above the surface. Just before the snow settles, take in a large, deep breath. If you are close to the surface, begin digging yourself out.
  • Step 7: Stay calm and wait If you're not close to the surface, or can't tell where the surface is, conserve your energy. Your avalanche beacon or airbag system will signal your whereabouts. Remain calm and wait for help to arrive.
  • FACT: Three-quarters of people who get caught in avalanches are experienced backcountry recreationists.

You Will Need

  • An avalanche safety course
  • An avalanche beacon
  • A calm head
  • An Avalanche Airbag System (optional) (optional) (optional)

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