Today I wanted to cover safety in deep snow because skiers lose their lives every year due to their inability to save in deep snow.
Today I skied the Mammoth Mountain area just after 10.5 to 15.5 feet of new snow fell. I skied today because it is going to snow in the afternoon and tomorrow. I skied deep in the snow, knee-deep and very heavy, about 6 times this morning. And just when I thought my balance was perfect, I was 10 years old? Tall and bulletproof, I did a strange job and fell into the bottomless powder of the trees. It rains in my mouth when it snows and it always makes me feel short of breath / claustrophobic.
I fell slowly to the left with my skis and my body fell to the right. Suddenly I realized that it would be really hard to get up and get out of this bottomless powder. So I took a moment, took a few deep breaths, and accessed my position. I was somewhere in the trees where no one was likely to find me.
I needed to save myself. I knew from experience that I was in endless powder and my bars did not help much. Some people say make a “t” with your poles and rely on them, but it did not work at all. This powder was very deep, and the deep powder poses unique and potential challenges. So we have to be ready. Larger baskets on your beams are useful for putting pressure on you on powder days, but they do not show enough resistance to help you stand when you fall. Since my body is heavier than boots and skis, the more I try and move, the lower my body sinks and my legs are above my head.
In this case, by pulling my body mass on the ski pole by pulling my legs below the knee, I was able to slowly move my hips for about 2 minutes to get more on my skis. The last part was hard because I had nothing to restrain, but I knew that if I could do this last move to get my buttocks behind my skis, I could stand. So I stretched my legs again because I knew it would give me the resistance I needed.
I managed to get up, now about 5 minutes after falling. Both of my skis were on clothes and sank in the snow. I gently pulled to the right to break the snow surface to raise my leg. Then I did the same with the left ski. Well, I was finally able to go back to the groomed part and complete my rescue from the bottomless powder.
In another blog post, I explained how to find bottomless powder skiing, which can be challenging. In the search box of this blog, search for “lost ski” or “find lost ski”, it should come up. My method has always been able to find lost skis quickly, so you no longer have to worry about that.
But I still want to cover what happened to me as a child in the June mountains. It was a week with 8 feet of new snow on Mount June. I successfully went skiing, but fell and made a big hole in the flat at the bottom. At first I panicked and tried to stand on my own two feet. But the harder I tried, the more I sank into the powder and dug deeper into the hole. It got to the point where I was 8 feet in the hole and still could not stand on my own two feet.
I knew no one was skiing on his face that day. If he was skiing again, he would not hear my cries or see me unless he saw the track through my hole. I could not count on it!
I was only about 11 years old, and I needed a plan to save myself, otherwise I could have been there all night and frozen. I decided to rest. I took out the camera I had in my pocket and took a picture of the bottom of my 8 foot deep hole. I tried to squeeze my arrows to hit something hard, and I dropped them to my shoulder. I did not hit anything that could support me.
I thought a little more and finally realized that I could do 1 ski and use it horizontally for support. I was able to put one ski aside and hold it next to the ski and hold it to catch, thus pulling myself into a standing position. Then I pulled my upper body up and from the other side I went up to the hole. I kept doing this until I got to a point where I was only knee deep.
I skied again and was able to make my way to the chair lift. Please remember this technique if you get stuck in a deep hole in the powder. The same self-rescue strategy can be useful for pulling yourself out of a tree, which can be deadly if you do not know what to do. More information on what to do if you get stuck in a tree well is at: http://www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com. There are some great safety tips on that site that I have covered here.
I can tell you from experience that learning these proven ways to save yourself from others is easier than having to come up with a rescue technique when you get stuck. People die from getting stuck in deep powder. Here are 2 of my rescue techniques. I also recommend that you always have a whistle with you when skiing in the trees. This may allow you to ask for help where you are not seen. I also recommend that you have a fully charged cell phone with the Mammoth Mountain Ski Tour phone number on your phone. That way, when you get injured, you can call for help and tell them where you are. You should plan under the ICE to be contacted in the event of an emergency, injury or emergency. Emergency personnel know they have to search your cell phone for this, so you need to plan your emergency number there so they can find it if needed.
Other emergency supplies I bring with me for skiing are:
1) Small knife – if necessary, it can pluck you from a tree or fillet fish or squirrels.
2) I told you about the whistle – it can help the ski tour to hear your voice as they make their final move in the mountains.
3) Lighter – If you have to spend the night, fire can save you from freezing to death.
4) Your mobile phone is programmed according to the above recommendations.
5) Cliff Bar – These have a lower freezing point so you will not have to chew on a solid stone snack.
6) Fleece Fleece – can increase heat retention in wind and if you get stuck overnight.
7) Ski helmet – Use a helmet every time you ski. You can not predict when a dangerous situation will manifest itself. 80% of fatal ski injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet.
I photocopy my driver’s license and medical card, so if I faint, they will know who I am from my driver’s license. And they know my “ICE” to call someone in an emergency because my cell phone is scheduled to be on me all day.
Being prepared and aware can save your life or keep you from getting stuck in the woods for hours or overnight. If you only ski on regular slopes, you only need 1/2 of this. But I like to go to my tree powder tanks, so I always pack this in my ski jacket, so I will have it if I need it. Please teach these deep snow rescue techniques to your family, friends and loved ones so they know what to do in this potentially life threatening situation. Be safe on the domains!