Avalanche safety equipment for skiing and snowshoeing
If you are off-piste in winter, the right avalanche safety equipment is essential. It consists of an avalanche transceiver, a shovel and a probe and, if necessary, an avalanche airbag.
The avalanche transceiver is used to locate buried subjects. It has a transmitting and a receiving mode. In transmitting mode, signals are sent out at regular intervals, which are registered by another device in receiving mode. Like this, it is possible to pinpoint the position of an injured person and finally locate him or her precisely. In order for the devices to function optimally, you should follow a few tips:
A signal is only generated if both the buried and the searching person have a functioning and switched on avalanche transceiver with them.
Don’t forget to make a device check before starting. During this check, you will alternately set your devices to receiving mode and check if you can locate your partner. Also, remember to have charged batteries.
The device must be in transmitting mode for the entire route. You only switch to receiving mode when you are searching for a buried person. Note that you can’t be located by others anymore.
The device should always be worn directly on the body, not in a backpack. This could be lost in an accident.
If the position of a buried subject is determined by the avalanche transceiver, the probe is used. With its help, it is possible to determine the depth at which the person is buried and to clearly mark the location for digging.
Probes usually consist of several elements that can be quickly joined together by a pulling system. They are about 2.40 m long and have a printed guidance system to read the depth at which the buried subject is located.
A probe is also helpful in other areas, by the way. For example, you can use it to check risky slope areas for snowy obstacles during freeriding (e.g. in the landing zone after kickers).
Using a probe
Photo: Ortovox Safety Academy
Avalanche snow is extremely compact and has a much higher density than ordinary snow. You must therefore always have a stable shovel with you so that you can come to the rescue of a buried person in an emergency. It is almost impossible to clear the snow with your bare hands.
Avalanche shovels are made of an ultra-light but robust material such as aluminum or carbon. They are also foldable or can be disassembled into individual parts so that they can be optimally stowed in a backpack.
While avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe are only used when a person has already been buried, the avalanche airbag is the only aid that can actively protect you from being buried. If you are traveling in terrain with a high risk of avalanches, the airbag is an essential part of our avalanche emergency equipment.
The airbag backpack works like this: In a mixture of parts of different sizes, the larger parts always float upwards. An inflated airbag significantly increases the volume of the athlete and he or she has a better chance of staying on the surface of the avalanche or being only slightly buried.