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Elk Meadows, Utah Elk Meadows, Utah Elk Meadows, Utah Elk Meadows, Utah Elk Meadows, Utah Elk Meadows, Utah
Elk Meadows, Utah

Avalanche Quiz

While visiting Elk Meadows, we experienced a snow storm that dropped 5 feet of incredible powder. Fresh snow makes snowboarding and skiing a blast, but it increases the risk of avalanches. Avalanches are the biggest danger to exploring the backcountry in winter. Take this quiz to see if you would survive.

1. It's impossible to know when an avalanche is going to hit (true or false)?

2. What usually triggers avalanches that kill and injure humans?

3. If you are a good skier or snowborder, you can always just get yourself out of harm's way (true or false)?

Mountain heavley laden in snow.

4. If caught in an avalanche, you will survive if you or someone else can dig you out before you suffocate?

5. If buried alive by an avalanche, about how long do you have to save yourself or be saved (2 minutes, 15 minutes, 1 hour)?

6. What can you do to save yourself, if you are buried alive by an avalanche?

7. When is the best time to use an avalanche beacon?

Snow shoeing into the backcountry.

Answer are below.

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1. It's impossible to know when an avalanche is going to hit (true or false)?
False! Post-incident investigations have shown that almost every fatal avalanche showed clear signs prior to the slide. This deadly force of nature is almost entirely avoidable.

Snow mobile riding.

2. What usually triggers avalanches that kill and injure humans?
The humans themselves. 95% of all serious avalanche accidents are actually triggered by the people involved.

3. If you are a good skier or snowborder, you can always just get yourself out of harm's way (true or false)?
False! In some incidents the wind created by an avalanche has been so great it has ripped all of the clothing off of the skiers caught in it. Winds caused by an avalanche have been measured at over 150 mph and have been strong enough to blow away cars.

4. If caught in an avalanche, you will survive if you or someone else can dig you out before you suffocate?
Hopefully. 25% of all fatalities are caused by the motion of the avalanche itself by tossing victims into obstacles like rocks and trees. If you are in the lucky 75%, start digging.

5. If buried alive by an avalanche, about how long do you have to save yourself or be saved (2 minutes, 15 minutes, 1 hour)?
15 minutes. 93% of people that survive the movement of an avalanche are alive 15 minutes later, but then everything changes. When an avalanche occurs, the movement of the snow and the friction that stops it from moving creates a tremendous amount of heat. Think about what happens to your hands when you rub them together or what happens to break pads when they are used on steep mountain declines. This melts some of the snow that might have been light powder before the avalanche. In addition, your body and breath create heat that melts the snow surrounding you. Snow re-freezes after an avalanche in about 15 minutes. This will create an impermeable layer of suffocating ice. This ice layer does not let air in or carbon dioxide out, and it becomes so hard that you will not be able use your bare hands to break through it. It is literally an ice coffin.

6. What can you do to save yourself, if you are buried alive by an avalanche?
If you are unfortunate enough to be caught in this situation, you must make as large of a breathing hole for yourself as possible. You will probably be injured and confused, and your arms and legs will most likely be hopelessly pinned. Remain calm, but you have no time to waste. You must start making as large a breathing hole as possible before the first 15 minutes are up. Hopefully, you will be able to do this by using your arms to dig a hole. If you are really lucky, you might even be able to dig yourself out.

7. When is the best time to use an avalanche beacon?
Before you get into the backcountry. Take 5 minutes before you head into the back country and make sure your beacons are working. Discuss with everyone in your group what to do in case they are caught in an avalanche, and maybe you should play a game of hide and seek with the beacons. This will make sure everyone has it fresh in their heads should the worst happen.

Avalanches are for the most part completely avoidable.

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