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Avalanche Rescue Gear Essentials

With early season snowfall, endless ski swaps, and Instagram chock full of epic adventure shots, excitement for your first backcountry tour of the season is surely ramping up. But before you get out there, take a moment to review these crucial steps to ensure you’re properly prepared:

Part 1:  Check Your Equipment

  • Examine your transceiver.  Look it over for any signs of damage, including corrosion on the battery terminals. Put in new batteries and check that the battery level reads correctly.
  • Test transceiver range. Since ranges tend to decrease as transceivers age, grab another transceiver and test both the send and receiving range. If it shows any signs of improper function, take it to a dealer and ask them for a system check. If your transceiver is older than 5 years, consider replacing it.
  • Deploy your probe. If there are set screws that hold the cable of your probe together, make sure these are tight.
  • Assemble your shovel. Make sure it fits together easily.

Part 2: Play Hide and Seek

  • With a Buddy. Find an area away from avalanche terrain and have your partner bury their transceiver so that it’s not visible. Take turns making the burial more complex—deeper, near rocks or trees, etc.
  • On your own.  Most avalanche centers post locations of training parks on their website where you can practice your search skills looking for buried transceivers.

Part 3: Practice Probing and Shoveling

  • Probing.  Remember to probe at a 90-degree angle to the snow surface and go all the way to the ground. Practicing probing will help you develop a feel for what you can’t see –for example, buried rocks and trees will feel a lot different than a backpack.
  • Shoveling.  Once you get a strike with your probe, get out your shovel and dig. Shoveling techniques might seem rudimentary, but inefficient shoveling is exhausting and ineffective. Knowing how to move heavy snow in a variety of situations is essential, especially with deeper burials. Time is of the essence in avalanche rescue, so efficiency in locating, probing, and shoveling can mean the difference between life and death.

If practicing on your own seems overwhelming, take an Avalanche Rescue class through your local avalanche center.  You’ll learn step-by-step how to use your transceiver, probe, and shovel in a stress-free environment. Having a firm grip on the fundamentals will make your backcountry trips more enjoyable by ensuring that you and your partners are prepared for the worst-case scenario.