Ski patrol and avalanche control

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Ski patrol and avalanche control

This article aims to explore how skis are patrolled and avalanches are controlled. There are many ski resorts in the USA, and Europe, and they draw the attention of millions of skiers and snowboarders every year. However, dealing with avalanches and maintaining the safety of visitors sometimes become quite challenging for the resorts. Certainly, snow is a source of pleasure, but it is also an unstable and life-threatening danger.

Ski patrol and avalanche control

Ski patrol

Patrolling a ski to ensure the safety of its visitors and controlling avalanches are the main jobs of ski patrollers. Ski patrollers are also responsible for implementing ski policies and clearing rubbles from the ski runs. As they are technically and medically certified, they provide emergency medical care and rescue services when required. Ski patrollers are usually employees of ski patrolling organisations.

As the ski season runs from December to the end of April, ski patrollers often work in adverse weather conditions and high-risk areas. They always carry with them a number of equipment e.g. first aid kit, radio, avalanche transceiver, and snow shovel. They go through both emotional and physical challenges while dealing with incidents and casualties. Many of them find alternate employment outside the ski season.

Avalanche prevention and control

The term ‘avalanche’ refers to a mass of snow and ice falling rapidly down a mountainside (Soanes, 2002).  Avalanches can cause devastating damages to human life, and properties. For instance, in 1970, the Ancash Earthquake in Peru, triggered an extremely powerful avalanche that alone claimed almost 20,000 human lives, making it the deadliest avalanche in human history. Similarly, avalanches in Afghanistan in 2005 killed approximately 310 people (World Atlas, 2019).

As avalanches are dangerous threats to human life, and can close roads, cover train tracks and disrupt local economies, ski patrols and other relevant organisations usually take necessary steps to prevent major avalanches. One of the techniques to prevent major avalanches is to trigger small and controlled avalanches deliberately when there is no one on the slope. It can be carried out with the use of explosives and artillery fire. Interrupting the flow of snow with fences, posts, nets, and anchors can also be useful sometimes.

However, avalanches can occur regardless whatever preventatives actions and measures are taken, particularly, in the first 24 hours after fast, heavy snowfall (Wilson, 2019). Rescue missions often include helicopter flights to rescue the victims and airlift supplies to the affected areas. On the ground, the rescue teams use beacons, shovels, probes, other technologies to search for buried victims.

Often it may be that victims are buried alive in avalanches, and the chances of finding them alive depends on how speedy the rescue efforts are, and how equipped and efficient the rescue teams are. It is worth noting that rescue efforts may sometimes be very slow due to adverse weather conditions and remote locations.

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Last update: 21 September 2019

References:

Soanes, K. (2002) Pocket Oxford English Dictionary, 9th edition, New York: OUP

Wilson, T. (2019) How Avalanches Work, available at: https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/avalanche3.htm (accessed 19 September 2019)

World Atlas (2019) Deadliest Avalanches in History, available at: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/deadliest-avalanches-in-history.html (accessed 19 September 2019)

Photo credit: Pixabay

Author: Jo David

Jo David has years of experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality and tourism management.