Born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., I learned that snowstorms are as inevitable as the Bills losing the Super Bowl. That's why I stay prepared for snow, keeping a snow brush, jumper cables, and a very warm blanket with me in the car at all times.

But there are more things in life that require planning and preparation to avoid than just bad weather, and the dreaded market downturn is near the top of that list. Fortunately, there are a few important tools an investor can use to avoid disaster.

1. A healthy dose of long-term vision
2008 has gotten off to a stormy start, with the S&P 500 down more than 9% year to date. Right now, a lot of investors are running scared. But bailing out of the market now is a big mistake. While no one knows exactly when the market will rebound, if you take yourself out of the game, you won't get any gains at all.

Look, everyone gets anxious when their investments drop. The key is to maintain long-term focus in a diversified portfolio, and add new money regularly to take advantage of the simple fact that the market goes up most of the time.

2. An eye for scoping out new bargains
Also keep in mind that there's a silver lining to market downturns -- falling prices make stocks are cheaper. For eagle-eyed bargain-hunters, this is a prime time for going shopping.

For example, ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), Canon (NYSE: CAJ), and Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI) all sport P/Es of less than 15, as well as five-year earnings growth in excess of 10%. What's more, Conoco and Baker Hughes operate in the energy industry, which should see sustainable global demand for the next 10 to 20 years.

Yet all three of these stocks are down more than 10% so far this year. Have the business prospects for these firms gotten 10% worse in this short period of time? Hardly ... which is why it's time to do more research.

3. Investments that can survive choppy waters
Unfortunately, even the strongest companies can be dragged down when the rest of the market is in a tailspin. But there's one way to hedge your bets on specific stocks while still benefiting from some of the greatest investing minds around: Invest in mutual funds.

The key here is to find those rare funds that have not only delivered terrific returns in up markets, but also held up well during rougher market conditions. It's easy to make money when things are going well, but it takes whole other level of skill to protect on the downside.

Those are the kinds of managers and funds that the investing team at Champion Funds looks to home in on. We seek out managers with the skill and temperament to beat the market in both good and bad environments. In fact, one of the fund Champs on our roster posted a cumulative 51% gain during the last market downturn from 2000 to 2002. The S&P 500 index, on the other hand, lost 37% during that same time frame.

This fund wisely staked out positions in durable companies at good prices such as Philip Morris (now known as Altria Group (NYSE: MO)), Clorox (NYSE: CLX), and Lancaster Colony (Nasdaq: LANC), which helped it post positive gains while the rest of the market lost ground. Learn the name of this down-market fund Champ, and other investments that will help you build a profitable and diversified portfolio for any market environment, by taking a free 30-day trial to Champion Funds.

Just like snowstorms, market downturns may be no fun to slog your way through. But with a little planning and the right mindset, you'll come out in one piece on the other end.

Amanda Kish heads up the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service. At the time of publication, she did not own any of the companies mentioned herein. Lancaster Colony is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Click here to find out more about the Fool's disclosure policy.