Tips from the pros
Safety in mountain in avalanche terrain
With the collaboration of Avalanche Québec team.
Avalanches are masses of snow that are set in motion and keep moving due to the effect of their own weight. They can be set off naturally or humans can also be responsible, whether voluntarily (preventive control) or involuntarily (skiers, snowboarders, snowmobiles, etc.). Be aware that victims are responsible for triggering 80 percent of accidental avalanches. Even a small avalanche can be dangerous. That's why we must be well prepared for a mountain adventure in some of our destinations, such as Parc national de la Gaspésie, Parc national des Grands-Jardins, Gîte du Mont-Albert, Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs and Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs!
THE WEATHER FORECAST
Weather forecasts play an important role in matters of avalanche prevention. Along with temperature increases, heavy snowfall favours the development of avalanches. Make sure you consult the most recent avalanche bulletin, as well as weather forecasts, when you prepare your backcountry skiing outing. Avalanche Québec enables you to consult the alpine forecast (in French only) up to 10 days in advance. Forecasts are prepared every week by a professional meteorologist. It is the only agency east of the Rockies offering this type of forecast!
The equipment required during outings on avalanche terrains includes the avalanche transceiver, the probe, and a shovel for each member of the group. In the event of an avalanche, the people remaining on the surface will be equipped to go into search mode to find those buried under snow. The probe is used to more accurately locate a buried person. Finally, a light but sturdy shovel will be useful to extract victims. Avalanche Québec offers rescue training sessions (in French only) to teach proper use of the avalanche transceiver and probe. You can also rent this specialized equipment (in French only) in several places in Québec.
BEFORE THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
Planning is a very important step for the success of your mountain adventure.
- Form a group of two to seven people for your excursion. Never be alone. Oversized groups are also to be avoided.
- Choose your destination together so that it is suitable for all members of the group.
- Create a schedule and an itinerary to get a feel for the day ahead.
- Check the latest weather forecasts when choosing your destination, as well as on the morning of departure, to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- Don't forget to rent the necessary rescue equipment, and most importantly, make sure you know how to use it.
ON THE MOUNTAIN
Throughout your adventure, you must remain alert. Risk assessment will enable you to have a safer trip to the mountains. You should be always be analysing the terrain, the snow, and the temperature, as well as your own behaviour. If you combine all of this with good practices in avalanche environments, your adventure will be exciting and safe!
- Remove all fasteners and straps so you can attach equipment to your body. In the event of a fall or an avalanche, you will not be encumbered by your equipment.
- Review the plan and itinerary with the members of your group before leaving.
- Everyone must participate in decisions and be aware of the plans.
- Designate a group guide and a trail sweeper.
- Go down one at a time and wait for the rest of the group in a safe area.
- Regroup at regular intervals and at intersections. Be vigilant when you regroup. Avoid dangerous places such as ledges.
- Make sure someone is within earshot when you’re in wooded areas.
- Be mindful of other groups that may be nearby.
- Favour gentle slopes and areas where the snow is thicker.
- Make sure you have an itinerary enabling you to turn back if you set off an avalanche.
- Carry your avalanche rescue equipment with you.
- For a customized and safe experience, call upon the services of a professional guide.
ABOUT AVALANCHE QUÉBEC
Avalanche Québec is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide information on avalanche safety. Their website (in French only) provides a wealth of information so you can fully understand the hazards and risks associated with avalanches. The team explains what an avalanche terrain is so you can recognize it once there. It also provides complete information on the practical avalanche safety training sessions offered in Québec.