Photo: Avalanche, Mt. Rainier

A massive slab of glacier dislodges, triggering an avalanche in Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. Avalanches range from a small-scale movement of loose snow, called sluffing, to massive displacements.

Photograph by Marc Muench/Getty Images

Every year hundreds of people—usually skiers, snowboarders, or snowmobilers—get caught in avalanches. Here are some key steps you can take to avoid avalanches and actions to take if you or someone you're with gets caught in a snowslide.

Safety Tips

• Evaluate the avalanche hazard before attempting a rescue.

• Constantly evaluate avalanche of conditions.

• Areas with fresh accumulations of wind-driven snow are particularly vulnerable.

• Extremely steep slopes particularly in shaded areas near a ridge are also risky.

• Always travel with a partner. Descend risky areas one by one and watch for avalanche signs.

• Wear an avalanche rescue beacon that signals your location.

• Carry a small shovel and a long probe to locate a buried partner.

• Learn how to use the rescue equipment.

• Practice using the rescue equipment.

• Practice some more.

• If caught in a slide, try to get off the slab or grab a tree.

• If swept away, swim to the surface.

• Evaluate the avalanche hazard before attempting a rescue.

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