BACKCOUNTRY SAFETY GUIDE
One of the greatest risks we face when skiing off piste or out in the backcountry is that posed by avalanche. The majority of avalanche victims are caught in avalanches that have been triggered by themselves or their companions. Statistics show that in the event of an avalanche burial, the buried victim’s greatest chance of survival is to be located and uncovered within 15 minutes. With the average call out time for an official search and rescue team to arrive on location and begin searching at around 30 to 40 minutes it is apparent that the avalanche victim’s greatest chance of survival is through an efficient and rapid search and rescue operation provided by the victim’s properly equipped and prepared companions on location.
The minimum requirements for skiing in the backcountry are a transceiver, shovel and probe.
There are some scary statistics that show search and rescue times for locating and uncovering an avalanche victim under 1 meter of snow by teams with:
- Only a transceiver – 60 plus minutes
- A transceiver and a shovel – 26 minutes
- Transceiver and probe – 50 minutes
- Transceiver, shovel and probe – 16 minutes
From this you can see just how important the magic 3 items are. Don’t venture out there without them!
Remember that backcountry areas are not patrolled and you need to have an idea of how long it will take you get to where you want to go and how long it will take you to get back into a patrolled area.
Make sure you know what time the last lifts of the day run in case you need to use them to get back to your resort.
- Always check the current/latest weather conditions.
- Never ski/board backcountry if you are not accomplished at your sport.
- Never venture backcountry if you have no experience of understanding mountain conditions and recognizing avalanche risk.
- Never venture off piste or backcountry on your own.
- Always use a guide or someone with exceptional knowledge of the area.
- Always carry and know how to use an avalanche transceiver, probe, shovel and other essential survival equipment.
Lastly remember give an indication to the area you are intending to board/ski in, to your rep, friends or somebody who will be able to raise an alarm should you fail to return.
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