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How to Survive an Avalanche

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Getting caught in an avalanche is every backcountry skier’s nightmare, but with a little luck and the proper technique, you can live to tell one heck of a snowy story.

1. Be a Beacon

You can take one huge step toward survival before you ever set foot on a mountain. Buy and wear an avalanche beacon, a small radio that will transmit your location to rescue crews.

2. Stay On Top

“Swimming” to the top of the avalanche will help avoid being trapped under debris, which is solid advice. However, you don’t have to be as graceful as an Olympic freestyle champ. If “swimming” is too tough, “violently thrashing around so you don’t sink” will suffice. Just do whatever it takes to stay on top of the sliding cascade.

3. Reach for the Sky

This may be easier said than done, but try to keep one arm above your head as the avalanche tosses you around. The benefit of this maneuver is twofold: it will be easier for rescuers to spot you if your hand is sticking out of the snow, and with any luck, you’ll know which direction is up, a huge help as you try to dig out.

4. Get Spitting

Normally, it’s bad manners to spit. But if you’ve been trapped under an avalanche, spitting can save your life. As soon as you stop moving, quickly work to open a space in front of your face. Not only will this pocket give you room to breathe, it will give you space to spit. Note where gravity carries your spit, then dig in the opposite direction.

5. Remain Calm

The natural instinct for anyone buried by an avalanche is to get pretty nervous, but if you can keep your head, you can stay alive. In most cases, victims have a 15-minute window in which they can carve out areas to breathe under the snow. Panicking will speed your breath and shorten your window, so calmly work on digging your way out. If you’ve worn your beacon, rescue workers will hopefully be on the way, and you’ll get pulled out of the mess.
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If you’ve been brilliant enough to survive an avalanche, you deserve a break, preferably somewhere warm. Head to a hot beach and crack open a cold Dos Equis to toast your good luck.

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How to Shave With a Straight Razor
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Our Be More Interesting series will teach you new skills to wow your friends. Today, Max Silvestri learns to shave with a straight razor. 

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How to Cross a River Without a Bridge
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Need to cross a roaring river? It’s always best to find a bridge, but if you absolutely must make it to the other side on your own, a few easy steps can keep you high and relatively dry.

1. Scout Around

Invest a little time in finding the best place to make your crossing. Avoid bends in the river, where water whips around the fastest. Once you find a suitable spot, walk downstream a few hundred feet to make sure there aren’t any hazards. It’s always good to know about the pesky 30-foot waterfall around the bend.

2. Don’t Be Narrow-Minded

They look tempting, but narrow crossings can be the most dangerous—they’re often the deepest part of the river. Look for the widest section instead. Keep an eye out for mild ripples—which are safe to cross—and avoid whitecaps, which can be treacherously slippery.

3. Ditch Your Duds

If the water will reach your knees, strip down to your skivvies - your pride isn’t worth getting hypothermia from wet clothes. Even if the river is shallow, remove your socks and put on a second pair of shoes if you have them. If you’re backpacking, unbuckle your front straps so you can quickly slip out of your pack if you fall.

4. Shuffle Up

Face upstream, lean into the current, and move across the river with shuffling sidesteps. You’re less likely to fall while sidestepping since you don’t lift your feet as high. If you’re with a group, link arms. The technique creates more contact points with the streambed and gives everyone a more solid footing.

5. Become a Bump on a Log

If the rapids are too fast, shuffling across may be a bad idea. Look for a log that spans the whole river instead. But don’t walk on it! Wet wood can be dangerously slippery. Instead, straddle the log and scoot along until you reach the other side.

6. Float Away

In situations where the river is deep but the current isn’t very swift, a football or soccer ball can be a handy improvised flotation device. Tether it to your wrist and grab on when you get tired of swimming. Or hug it with one arm as you sidestroke for extra buoyancy.
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Once you make it to the opposite shore, dry off and toast your successful crossing with a round of Dos Equis.

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