Tag Archives: Ice

How to Avoid an Avalanche

Whether you’re hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing through the mountains, avalanches are not to be regarded lightly. We’ve all seen enough video clips and movies to know that they are a force to be reckoned with and one to be avoided at all costs. Even in situations where you played by all the rules and did everything you were supposed to, Mother Nature still sometimes throws a curveball and you might find yourself on a remote snow-covered mountain that’s showing the signs of an avalanche. Here is some information on what exactly you’re up against as well as how to properly prepare yourself.

What Triggers an Avalanche?

Snow crashing over a snowy cliff

An avalanche at Mt. Rainier [Image: environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/avalanche-profile/]

An avalanche occurs once the weight of the snow is too much and the snowpack fails and collapses under the pressure. It’s hard to determine what the strength of a snowpack will be since the snow grains vary depending on size, density, temperature, airflow, received sunlight, difference in terrain, and more. A lot of avalanches occur naturally either during a storm or when the snowpack changes, such as by partially melting, but can also be triggered by exploring visitors. There are three different types of avalanches to look out for: slab, powder snow, and wet snow.

Slab Avalanche

A hiker trapped in a series of snow chunks breaking away from the snowpack.

A slab avalanche [Image: www.wayneflannavalancheblog.com/2012/01/i-have-this-picture-on-my-wall-in.html]

A slab avalanche occurs when covered layers of weakened snow fracture and collapse. They mostly happen during and up to 24 hours after a storm that leaves 12 inches or more of fresh powder. This new snow overloads the existing layers and creates a break. These avalanches can be huge chunks of snowpack, sometimes spanning an entire mountainside, and typically carry downslope for a long time with the possibility of reaching up to 80 mph. Approximately 90% of avalanche-related deaths are due to slab avalanches—many who find themselves involved in a slab avalanche will rarely escape alive.

Powder Snow Avalanches

An avalanche coming down a mountainside appearing like a cloud.

A powder snow avalanche [Image: www.planat.ch/en/images-details/datum/2011/06/21/schattenbachlawine-walenstadt]

Powder snow avalanches occur with fresh, dry powder and essentially become a snow cloud. These are the largest avalanches to form out of turbulent suspension currents. Typically these avalanches are able to move along flat surfaces for long distances and only make up a small amount of injuries or deaths comparatively.

Wet Snow Avalanches

A smaller avalanche coming down a mountainside made up of clumps of wet snow.

A wet snow avalanche [Image: www.mtavalanche.com/images/10/loose-wet-snow-avalanche?size=_original]

Although wet snow avalanches move slowly, they can take up a large amount of space, can result in serious injury, and end up being pretty destructive leaving trees, boulders, and most of what they come into contact with in their wake. They occur from a loose snow release in snow packs that have a lot of water saturation and are close to melting point. A lot of times these avalanches occur toward the end of winter as the snow is warmed by the longer daytime hours.

How to Prepare for Avalanches

A diagram of a man trapped underneath snow putting an arm above his head and another across his face to create an air pocket.

What to do if trapped in an avalanche [Image: www.artofmanliness.com/2011/12/14/how-to-survive-an-avalanche]

When going on a wintertime adventure on a snowy mountaintop, it’s best to be prepared for even the most extreme situations. Always check avalanche forecasts with park headquarters before heading out for a trip. At the bare minimum, you should bring a shovel, beacon, and probe with you. Beacons (or avalanche transceivers) are important because they can receive signals from other devices to help locate buried victims. A probe is used to dive into the snow and find a buried victim and works especially well when coupled with a beacon. Avalanche airbags and Avalungs are fantastic items that make it so a buried person has a higher chance of surviving and being rescued.

Sometimes even the most diligent and prepared hiker, skier, or snowboarder will hear the terrifying creaks that signify an avalanche. The first thing you’ll want to do is get off the breaking slab as quickly as possible by moving to the side. Snowmobilers are sometimes able to crank the speed and outrace a broken slab. If unable to escape the mass of traveling snow, try to grab onto a sturdy object such as a tree or rock instead. Humans are denser than other debris and will sink faster in the snowpack. Once the snow settles, it refreezes and makes it nearly impossible to move. Throwing a hand above the snowpack and making room in front of your face are the most important things to do if you find yourself trapped. Some claim that spitting will help you determine which way is up or that swimming will get you away from a traveling snowpack quicker, but there is no proof that either actually works. The longer a victim is submerged under the snow, the less chance they have of surviving the incident (usually being buried for more than 15 minutes leads to hypothermia and a lower chance of survival).

Hopefully, this article gave you some new information and makes you feel a bit more prepared for any winter journeys you may be planning. Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to find a park to explore near you!

Top 6 Beginner Ice Skating Moves

Have you ever felt in complete awe when watching figure skaters? It’s a wonder how they do all those crazy, fast spins and dangerous axel jumps without getting disoriented. They didn’t learn it overnight, and started out just like the rest us, by the barrier doing penguin steps. After hours and days of practice, ice skaters can master some of these techniques. Ice skating is freeing once you’ve gained confidence and courage on the ice, and are able to learn new moves. If you feel comfortable enough to balance yourself and know how to stop, make your practice fun by learning these top 6 beginner ice skating moves.

Mom and daughter ice skating outdoors near mountains.

Image: www.msn.com

Forward Stroke (or Glide)

It’s recommended that beginners master the swizzle and the one-foot glide before starting the forward stroke. Stroking means moving from one skate to the other. Ice skaters either do a forward or back stroke. Skaters usually begin their session by warming up with one lap of strokes across the ice. Notice when pushing away on one foot, the free leg is extended back.

 

Outside 3 Turn

The outside 3 turn is perfect for those jazzy dance songs! This move means changing direction and edge. When doing the forward outside 3 turn, the skater goes forward on the outside edge and ends on the backwards inside edge. You can also learn the different combinations: forward or backward, left or right foot, and inside or outside edge.

Skate Backwards

While this may look hard for a beginner, the idea is to glide and push backwards. You can start by doing penguin steps backwards to ease you into the move. Begin rocking side to side and pick up speed. Don’t wiggle your bum! Proceed to pushing and transferring your weight from one leg to the other.

Forward & Backward Crossovers

Crossovers are grand, and essential to any figure skating routine. It helps you travel beautifully across the ice. The idea is to generate enough speed to get you around corners both backwards and forwards. Start from the T position and do half swizzles to get some speed before going into the crossovers.

Twizzle

This move may be considered an intermediate move, but if done slow you can master it. If you have experience doing the 3 turns, the twizzle shouldn’t take you long. The twizzle starts off similar to a forward inside 3 turn.

One Foot Spin

The one foot spin is the first spin that most figure skaters attempt. You start off by pushing off into a circle with your arms helping you rotate, and your free leg extending back then coming around. Once your free leg is 45 degrees, lift your knee and keep rotating. Try it on the floor before attempting it on the ice.

While you’re still practicing for jumps and spins, try out an easy bunny hop! And don’t forgot to download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to find winter sports and activities.

Breaking the Ice: A Beginner’s Guide to Ice Fishing

The beauty of ice fishing, aside from the magical prospect of sitting on top of frozen water, is that you can fish on any part of the lake (provided you have ample ice). For those without boats, it might be that one chance to venture out over deeper waters in search of a lunker. In North America, ice fishing is often done from inside a small portable shelter known as a fishing shanty. The benefit of a shanty is that it allows you to stay warm as well as beat inclement weather. Ice fishing is also a great way to spend a day with friends and family—provided everybody can stay warm. While a few anglers are confident on 2.5 inches of solid ice, 4 inches is considered safe for walking. For snowmobiles and other light craft, 5-7 inches is recommended.

Ice fishing shanty [image: www.blog.syracuse.com]

Ice fishing shanty [Image: www.blog.syracuse.com]

Safety Ice safety is your number one concern. Our very own ice safety primer can be found here. As always, use good judgment when walking out onto the ice. Avoid areas with running water such as dams, spillways and streams flowing into or out of lakes. Keep in mind that slush ice is 50 percent weaker than clear ice and ice over running water is 20 percent weaker. Also, take a buddy fishing with you—it’s more fun and it could save a life.

image: www.dnr.state.oh.us

Image: www.dnr.state.oh.us

Gear The fish might be biting but without warm clothes or a way to cut a hole in the ice, you won’t be catching a thing. Warm ski pants or coveralls are the best way to go. Another essential item is a stool because it keeps you elevated and off the ice. Creating a hole in the ice can be done a number of ways, but the most efficient (if also the most cumbersome) is by augur. An ice augur is large gas or manually operated drill that can easily burrow through a foot or more of ice. If you don’t own an augur, an axe or ice saw will do the trick. Another technique, if a little sneaky, is to locate holes made by pervious fishermen where the ice isn’t as thick. These can be broken through with a small hand axe or chisel known as a spud.

Hand augur [image: wikipedia.com]

Hand augur [Image: wikipedia.com]

Technique Tips-up and jigging are the two most common forms of ice fishing. Jigging is done with a small, lightweight spinning rod, using brightly colored lures or jigs that are often “sweetened” with a piece of bait, such as a wax worm or minnow. Once you’ve reached the depth you think the fish are at, lift the rod every now and again to produce the effect known as jigging. Tip-ups are specialized ice fishing devices made of wood or plastic that allow anglers to fish multiple locations and depths at once. When a fish takes the bait, a flag is released, notifying the angler. The fish is then pulled in by hand or reel depending on your setup.

image: www.lakemichiganangler.com

Image: www.lakemichiganangler.com

Location Settling on a location depends on the species of fish you’re after. Shallow ponds and lakes are best for bass, panfish, chain pickerel and northern pike. For trout, landlocked salmon and cusk, you’ll want to fish in a deep-water lake. However, even though trout and salmon prefer deep water, it doesn’t mean you’ll find them there in the winter. Trout and salmon prefer deep water because it allows them to stay cool in the summer months. During winter months, it is not uncommon to find these fish just below the ice. Remember, if you’re after bigger fish, make sure to drill your hole big enough (8-12 inches) to land it. Lastly, don’t forget to pack a hot beverage to sip while you contemplate the unique position of standing on top of 40 or more feet of ice water.

image: wikipedia.com