Day-Care-Worker-Accused-Of-Holding-7-Year-Old-Boy-While-Her-Daughter-Hit-Him How to Self-Rescue While Snow Skiing in Deep Powder

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How to Self-Rescue While Snow Skiing in Deep Powder

I want to talk about safety in deep snow today because every year skiers die needlessly because they cannot save themselves in deep snow.

I just had 10.5 – 15.5 feet of fresh snow today at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. I’m skiing today because it’s supposed to snow this afternoon and tomorrow. I skied about 6 times this morning in mostly knee deep snow. Just when I thought my balance was perfect, I was 10? Tall and bulletproof, I did a strange thing and fell into the bottomless powder of the trees. I fell with snow in my mouth and it always gave me a short of breath/claustrophobic feeling.

My skis fell slightly to the left and my body fell to the right. Suddenly, I knew it would be really hard to get up from this bottomless powder. So I took my time, took a few deep breaths, and understood my situation. I’m somewhere in the tree, it’s unlikely anyone will find me.

I need to save myself. I knew from experience that I was in bottomless powder and my ski poles weren’t going to help. Some say to make a “t” with your poles and lean on them, but that won’t work. Powder is too deep, and deep powder presents unique, potentially life-threatening challenges. So we need to be prepared. Larger baskets on poles help propel yourself in powder weather, but don’t provide enough resistance to help you get up from a fall. Since my body is heavier than my boots and skis, the more I struggle and move, the lower my body sinks, with my feet just above my head.

In this case, I was able to slowly move my hips onto more of the skis by pulling my body mass through the skis by pulling the legs below the knees over the course of about 2 minutes. The last part was hard because I had nothing to support, but I knew if I could do the last step and get my butt against the back of the skis, I’d be able to stand up. So I pulled the leg again because I knew it would give me the resistance I needed.

About 5 minutes after I fell, I managed to get up. Both of my skis were on top, sunken deep in the snow. I slowly pulled the one on the right up to break the snow surface for a higher foothold. Then I did the same for the left ski. Ok, I was finally able to slide back to the tidy part of the slide and complete the bottomless dust self-rescue.

In another blog post, I detail how to find skis in bottomless powder, which can be challenging. Search for “lost skis” or “find lost skis” in the search window on this blog and it should come up. My method has always been quick to find lost skis and you never have to worry about it again.

But I still wanted to report on what happened on June Mt. when I was a kid. It’s been a week with 8 feet of new snow on Mount June. I managed to slide over the wall, but fell and created a huge hole in the flat part of the bottom. I panicked a bit at first, struggling to get up. But the more I struggled, the more I sank into the powder and the hole got deeper and deeper. It got to the point where I was 8 feet deep in this hole and still couldn’t get up.

I knew no one was skiing that day. If the ski patrolman slides by, he won’t hear me yell, and he won’t see me unless he sees the track leading to my hole. I can’t count on that!

I’m only about 11 and I need to be smart and save myself or I’ll probably stay in there all night and freeze. I decided to take a break. I pulled out my pocket camera and took a photo from the bottom of my 8-foot hole. I tried to push my poles to hit something solid, but I kept sinking them to my shoulders. I didn’t hit anything that would support me.

I thought about it again, and finally I figured I could take one of the skis off and use it horizontally as a form of support. I was able to take off 1 ski and grab the side of the ski and dig it in for a grip, pulling myself into a standing position that way. Then I pulled my upper body up and turned sideways towards the edge of the hole. I kept doing this until I was only knee deep again.

I put the skis back on and was able to break the trail back to the lift. Remember this trick if you’re stuck in a deep pink hole. The same self-rescue tactics that can help you free yourself from tree wells can be fatal if you don’t know what to do. More information on what to do if you are trapped in a treewell is at: http://www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com. There are some really good security tips on that site that I didn’t cover here.

I can tell you from experience that it is much easier to learn these proven self-rescue techniques from others than to have to make up one when you are trapped. People died from falling into the deep powder. I am here to give you 2 self-help tips. I also recommend that you always carry a whistle when skiing. It may enable you to seek help where you cannot see it. I also recommend bringing a fully charged cell phone programmed with Mammoth Mountain’s ski patrol number. That way, when you get hurt, you can call for help and tell them where you are. You should be programmed under ICE for In Case of Emergency, the person to contact you in case of injury or emergency. First responders know to check your phone for this, so you’ll need to enter your emergency contact number into it so they can find it if needed.

Other emergency items I carry because I’m skiing are:

1) Pocket Knife – Can chop you off a tree, or cut up a fish or squirrel if necessary.

2) I told you about the whistle – helps the ski patrol hear you during their last sweep of the mountain at closing time.

3) Lighter – Lighting a fire will keep you from freezing to death if you have to stay overnight.

4) Program your phone as suggested above.

5) Cliff Bar – They have a lower freezing point so you don’t have to munch on rock solid snack bars.

6) Wool balaclava – really adds warmth in the wind if you’re stuck overnight.

7) Ski Helmet – Wear a helmet every time you ski. You cannot predict when a dangerous situation will arise. 80% of fatal skiing injuries can be avoided by wearing a helmet.

I photocopied my driver’s license and medical card so if I got knocked out they would know who I was from my driver’s license. They know my “ICE” and can call them in an emergency because it’s programmed into the phone I carry with me all day.

Being prepared and informed can save your life, or keep you from being stranded in the woods for hours or overnight. If you’re just skiing groomed pistes, you only need about 1/2 of this stuff. But I like to hide in my tree powder storage room, so I keep it in my ski jacket so I can reach it when I need it. Please pass on these deep snow self-help tips to your family, friends and loved ones so they know what to do in this potentially life-threatening situation. Be safe on the slopes!

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