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Winter Travel courtesy of the Eagle Mtn Resort

Preparing for Winter Travel

The more I teach survival skills the more precautions I take. Here are a few things to check before you set off for the mountains. Remember, any trip to the mountains could turn into a survival situation, so be prepared. Your mind will be at rest knowing your family and friends will be able to survive in the event of an emergency.

  1. Check the tires, especially your spare. Make sure they have good tread and are properly inflated. A good rule of thumb for air pressure is 35lbs. Make sure you have a jack that works and a board to place it on for security on sand or rocky soil.
  2. Check your cooling system. Make sure you have enough antifreeze that will function in below zero temperatures without freezing. Check all hoses by pinching them, they should be soft and supple and have no signs of cracking, or any leaks around the clamps.
  3. Check your alternator and fan belts. All belts should be tight with no signs of cracking or shredding. If you replace a belt that is still operational, save it for a spare in an emergency.
  4. Check your battery and cables. Remove all of the corrosion on the terminals with a 10:1 mixture of water and baking soda. This will neutralize the acid. The battery cables should be clean and tight.
  5. Check all fluids in your car for proper levels, including the engine and transmission oil, antifreeze, windshield cleaner and de-icer and battery water. Make sure you have plenty of gas to get where you want to go, don't take a chance of running out in a snow storm.
  6. If you are not familiar with your vehicle, a good way to start the winter season is with a complete tune-up, it could save your life.
  7. Use a current map of the area and tell someone where you are going, what routes you'll be taking and when you will return. If you find yourself going down a road that is getting worse, turn around, the farther you go into the wilderness, the less a road is traveled, so conditions will not get better and may even trap you. Hundreds of travelers die needlessly because they are not prepared for an emergency.

Use Common Sense and stay informed on current Road & Weather Conditions

Winter Emergency Kit

Here are a few things that I have in my vehicle at all times in the event of an emergency.

  1. Tire chains. Make sure they fit before you need them in the snow and it's a good idea to keep a chain repair kit handy.
  2. A basic tool kit with jumper cables. The cold weather is very hard on batteries
  3. Emergency road flares. "This is a must." I can't stress enough how important flares are in an emergency. They're also great for starting a fire when all you have is wet wood.
  4. An extra set of dry clothes, name brand insulated boots with wool socks, a sleeping bag, foul weather gear, insulated gloves, jackets and headgear. Wool clothing or a wool blanket is important because it will keep you warm even when wet.
  5. An emergency survival pack with high energy food bars, like Stoker or Clif Bars, dried fruit or jerky (I make my own). Food is a luxury, but water is a necessity, so have have plenty of extra drinking water and water purification tablets with you. Hydrate or die!
  6. A signaling mirror, matches, disposable lighters and a multi-purpose knife. The leatherman "Super Tool", is what our outdoor groomer, patrollers and snow removal people use. I have not seen a better tool on the market.
  7. You'll need a good, heavy duty flashlight. I have a Petzel™ "Hands Free" head lamp, which I highly recommend, and keep extra batteries for emergencies.
  8. In every pack there should be a compass, a whistle (use instead of yelling), a space blanket, small tarp, pencil and paper, large garbage bags, duct tape, woven line, a small shovel, tow rope, windshield ice scraper and a First Aid Kit. (A cellular phone also comes in handy.)
There are some very important things to be aware of in any emergency situation. You must keep a positive mental attitude and don't panic. Stay calm and use your head, it is your best survival tool in any situation.

It's very important to protect yourself from exposure. The wind-chill factor increases your risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Most cases of hypothermia occur well above freezing. If you run your vehicle to keep warm, be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Remember, a raised hood on your vehicle lets people know you need help.

These items are only some of the bare essentials you may need in an emergency. I encourage you to educate yourself and be prepared.

Gene "Wild Wild" West of Eagle Mtn XC Ski and Mtn Bike Resort
by: Gene
"Wild Wild" West

Have a Safe Winter - Gene "Wild Wild" West

If you're trapped in your car during a blizzard...

  • Stay inside the car.Only leave the car if help is visible within 100 yards.
    • You may become disoriented and lost is blowing and drifting snow.
  • Display a trouble sign by hanging a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raising the hood.
  • Occasionally run engine to keep warm.
    • Turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour.
    • Run the heater when the car is running.
    • Also, turn on the car's dome light when the car is running.
  • Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
    • Do minor exercises to keep up circulation.warmth, huddle together.
    • Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation.

If Frostbite or Hypothermia sets in, put the victim in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket. The warm the person's trunk first, using your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.

Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine in it (like coffee or tea) or alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.

Courtesy of: Federal Emergency Management Association

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Last modified: October 20, 2004

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