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Recommended Avalanche Safety Gear

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Can anyone offer advice on avalanche transceivers. I am looking to buy my son the safety gear before he heads out to Canada. He is intending to do a safety course but I want to help with the cost of the kit. Any recommendations?
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Buy him the book ‘Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain’ by Bruce Tremper. It’s like the bible. As well as adding to the knowledge from a course, it will reinforce the need to bring safety equipment (and only ski offpiste with those that have it and know how to use it).

Google for avalanche transceiver kit or package with the transiever, metal shovel, and probe. Ortovox, Pieps, Mammut Barryvox etc. Shovel should be metal not plastic. Probe the longer the better, but 2.4m is minimum. Should pick up that for less than £300 in the off season. A whistle. Multitool.

Now, for the rucksack... Ones designed for skiing are important as they have waist and chest straps, pockets for shovel, probe etc.

That’s the minimum. The next level is an avalanche airbag rucksack, which is a whole topic in itself (search the forum for threads).
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What @Themasterpiece, said.
Plus this site has lots of useful info on transceivers, rescue technique basics etc.
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@NickT, I would buy the Mammut Barryvox. One SH got one of the top units cheaper than the standard and it is great.

I have an Ortovox 3+ and on a test at THE EOSB, those with 3+ had to wait for the od second during a search to reaffirm the signal in the hurried transceiver.

Those with the Barryvox simply locked on and ran to it. I'm sure the transmission is fine but the searching of the barryvox was far superior.

And remember I'm not a fanboy, I actually have another brand but if I was buying another then it would be the Mammut.
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@Themasterpiece, has given perfect advice. One note on top is.....

when buying a shovel get one with a retractable handle and one that can reverse the handle so it can be used in shovel and scoop mode.

Probe? get a 3M one and one that can be thrown out and locked easily. I have an ortovox or black diamond and you throw it out pull the cord and lock it tight. Cheap one's you have to manually put together are a no no.

When buying a AVI pack make sure it has the type of canister that can be flown to Canada.

Personally I have a Black Diamond Jetforce. However, be warned it is heavy for a pack. I don't mind myself, and I also got it in a sale at a crazy cheap price.

See the pack thread for advice.
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@NickT, training and practice.
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I'd hate for someone else to select my gear for me. Transceivers particularly are a personal thing, although any modern device will do the job. I'd expect to find more choice in snowy bits of Canada than here. If someone is intending to do a course, then it may be better to hold off buying a device until after that, because the user will likely "know what they want" after playing with a few machines. Personally I don't much like modern Ortovox. I think that simplicity is the most important thing.

Airbags aren't as popular in Canada as they are in Europe and still a minority thing in my experience.
As a European I do have one, and there are no specific air travel restrictions, unlike the USA.
Again it's a personal choice.
I'd not buy one of these if you're "going on a course". Do the course first, then you'll know.
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look out for this, you'll want to make sure thaty any oRTOVOX 3+ IS CLEAR.

http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=137888#3237094&sid=8735910237f43f95a4ad58998fb8d8a2


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Sun 27-05-18 8:50; edited 1 time in total
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@philwig, sage advice.
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https://alloffpiste.com/avalanche-transceiver-avalanche-beacon-test-2013-franz-t-uiagm-guide/

Good review on that web link.

My impression: In Canada and the US, one does not see folks wearing avy gear usually because all inbounds terrain is controlled so people don't think about it (regardless of whether that is right or wrong, just the way it is, and Patrol does work hard to ensure a safe environment to the best of their ability).

When going into side-country (access out of bounds through a resort, gate or not), and back-country people forget and are careless as they egressed in-bounds terrain to gain access to the 'off-piste' equivalent in Europe. Now that is a personal decision and usually a bad one. Experienced and rational (self-preservation being top of one's mind of self and ski buddies) skiers and riders do take bags and transceivers, but indeed it is just that very few actually venture into such terrain.
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Thank you all for the advice its very helpful.Thanks for the book recommendation @Themasterpiece I will be getting the book as I would like to read it myself. I have done some off-piste skiing and have an Ortovox 3+which I actually like but I have now seen comments about its restricted range and that there were easier devices on the market now. The link to the recall was very useful Ill have to get mine out of the loft and check if it needs sending back so thanks for pointing that out @Bob. I take the point about picking the device yourself @philwig perhaps Ill give him the money but given the amount of kit out there I was concerned that he may buy a top range device that wasn't easy to use. I'll have to give some thought. Thanks again.
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I think you need to go and look at a few transceivers.

I'm a fan of Ortovox kit but bought the Pieps transceiver after playing around with a few brands. Just remember that if you ever need to use it to find your buddy, the situation will likely be very stressful. I wanted something simple to use, with a clear and uncomplicated display.
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Lots of people use BCA tranceivers as they are simple and local. As main cause of death in Avalanche is trauma and there are trees everywhere and people don't seem to use bags. Get a long probe.
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motdoc wrote:
Lots of people use BCA tranceivers as they are simple and local. As main cause of death in Avalanche is trauma and there are trees everywhere and people don't seem to use bags. Get a long probe.


are you able to source that? I'd suggest that asphyxia was the major cause of avalanche fatalities.

I'd think a probe of around 240cm is normal for recreational use, burials at depths beyond that are rare and would probably overwhelm non-professional rescuers. Median burial depth is about half of that and slightly less in Europe.
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@ise, suspect that stat may be for North America
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Arno wrote:
@ise, suspect that stat may be for North America


I understand that's a common belief. I'd be interested to see a source for it in North America.
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@ise, NO get a 3m probe. I'm 1m76 and at my waist I'm 1m20 so that means I can go 1m80cm into the snow to search unless Im on my knees. Standing and probing is what you need .

"Recreational use" Erm what does that mean? Really. Why not use a recreational beacon that only transmits a short distance and not that accurate and also why not use a recreational airbag AKA a beachball.

Get the proper gear or don't venture off.
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GlasgowCyclops wrote:

"Recreational use" Erm what does that mean? Really. Why not use a recreational beacon that only transmits a short distance and not that accurate and also why not use a recreational airbag AKA a beachball.


My thoughts exactly. WTF does 'recreational use' mean... professional skiers get buried deeper so only pro skiers need long probes? Because the avalanche knows whether they're a pro or recreational skier and if it's the latter then the snow does the decent thing and buries them less than 2.4m under but if they're a pro skier it goes whole hog?

To be frank, it's one thing equipping yourself poorly and venturing off piste at greater risk, I don't really care. But handing out advice on a forum that it's OK to equip yourself with lesser gear so long as you're only skiing for 'recreational' purposes is poor form.
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GlasgowCyclops wrote:
@ise, NO get a 3m probe. I'm 1m76 and at my waist I'm 1m20 so that means I can go 1m80cm into the snow to search unless Im on my knees. Standing and probing is what you need .


You are going to waste a lot of time probing trying to find someone > 2 meters under snow. Once you see you have a deep burial you are better off getting a minima with your beacon, marking that point with a probe then digging snow and probing when you have less depth and a more localized search area. The chances are that someone under a meter of avalanche debris is not going to be found in time.

Long probes are more suited to probe line use, which are pretty much for body recovery.
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I understand some of these ideas are in fairly common circulation and I was trying to get you to question what the basis was.

GlasgowCyclops wrote:
@ise, NO get a 3m probe. I'm 1m76 and at my waist I'm 1m20 so that means I can go 1m80cm into the snow to search unless Im on my knees. Standing and probing is what you need .


During the fine search phase of your transceiver search you should be on the ground for much the reasons you suggest. It’s from that position, in that part of the protocol, that you’ll use a probe. Probes are not used in the recreational setting from waist height. This is why most probes are sold in the 2m40 length. It’s the optimum length based on what we know about burial depths. You do not stand and probe.

GlasgowCyclops wrote:
"Recreational use" Erm what does that mean? Really. Why not use a recreational beacon that only transmits a short distance and not that accurate and also why not use a recreational airbag AKA a beachball.

Get the proper gear or don't venture off.


It means that professional rescuers need long probes for probe line searches. Working professionals in the winter environment can be called upon to take part in those searches which is why they need 3m+ probes.

I think it’s worth considering what avalanche incidents might look like and be trying to figure out what is and isn’t realistic. I would suggest quite strongly that burials at 3m or so are quite rare and would overwhelm bystanders. The length of the probes they’re carrying won’t alter that outcome at all and the decisive factor will be the deployment of professional recusers.

dp wrote:

To be frank, it's one thing equipping yourself poorly and venturing off piste at greater risk, I don't really care. But handing out advice on a forum that it's OK to equip yourself with lesser gear so long as you're only skiing for 'recreational' purposes is poor form.


I’m sorry but I do reject that. I think there’s some unrealistic thinking here and I feel quite strongly that suggesting that people aren’t properly equipped when they’re carrying exactly the right gear might be unhelpful. What I think would good form or best practice is to prepare for scenarios that are likely and figure out what skills might make a decisive difference.

I’ll return to the question I posed earlier - why do we think most north America avalanche fatalities are from trauma? That seems quite unlikely and ought to raise eyebrows. Again, it’s in fairly common circulation. The figures(*) that I see (that I can share) would suggest the actual figure in North America is that most fatalities are due to asphyxia as I would expect. This would lead me to conclude that the management of casualties in respiratory arrest would be a skill that recreational participants should acquire. I had pointed that out previously on snowheads with the related observation that for professionals most avalanche training takes place in the context of strong incident management skills and good first aid knowledge (**).

I believe quite passionately that people who go into the mountains, summer and winter, need some first aid skills. This is particularly true in the winter if they feel they’ll be involved in an avalanche incident. I strongly think this is being overlooked in these exchanges.

davidof wrote:
You are going to waste a lot of time probing trying to find someone > 2 meters under snow. Once you see you have a deep burial you are better off getting a minima with your beacon, marking that point with a probe then digging snow and probing when you have less depth and a more localized search area. The chances are that someone under a meter of avalanche debris is not going to be found in time.

Long probes are more suited to probe line use, which are pretty much for body recovery.


Can’t argue with that Happy As I pointed out, median burial is around 2m in NA and 1.8m in Europe. We’ve seen what actually happens for deep burials in, for example, Tignes. They’re using earth moving equipment sadly.


(*) Cause of Death in Avalanche Fatalities
McIntosh, Scott E. et al.
Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, Volume 18 , Issue 4 , 293 - 297
Haegeli, P., Falk, M., Brugger, H., Etter, H.-J., & Boyd, J. (2011). Comparison of avalanche survival patterns in Canada and Switzerland. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 183(7), 789–795. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.101435
Boyd, J., Haegeli, P., Abu-Laban, R. B., Shuster, M., & Butt, J. C. (2009). Patterns of death among avalanche fatalities: a 21-year review. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 180(5), 507–512. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.081327

(**) self declaration, I’m a first aid trainer specialising in outdoor incident management
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In the paper, When do we dig. Jarry analyzed 440 avalanches in France where there were complete burials. Burial depth was an average of 120cm. That requires a tonne of snow to be moved and to do that in 15 minutes needs good avalanche management skills and sufficient diggers (3 would be good but 2 is a minimum). Again the French figures show that survival rates drop rapidly for anyone buried more than 50 cm under snow with very very few live rescues at more than 2 meters.

I've nothing particular against a 3 meter probe although I would suggest that a shorter length is better optimized for the kind of situations recreational skiers will face where they have a reasonable chance of actually rescuing someone alive. I think Ise is correct in what he said.

Coming back to cause of death - around 20% in Europe due to trauma (Brugger suggested 10% in his research but he may have been counting only full burials). A quick google brought this up for Canada

Quote:
There were 204 avalanche fatalities with mortality information over the 21-year study period. Of these, 117 victims underwent autopsy, and 87 underwent forensic external examination. Asphyxia caused 154 (75%) deaths. Trauma caused 48 (24%) deaths, with the rate of death from trauma ranging from 9% (4/44) for snowmobilers to 42% (5/12) for ice climbers. In addition, 13% (12/92) of the asphyxia victims who underwent autopsy had major trauma, defined as an injury severity score of greater than 15. Only 48% (23/4Cool of victims for whom trauma was the primary cause of death had been completely buried.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2645441/

and for Utah

Quote:
Fifty-six avalanche deaths were identified during the study period. Most deaths occurred while participating in recreational backcountry activities; 85.7% of deaths were due to asphyxiation, 8.9% were due to a combination of asphyxiation and trauma, and 5.4% were due to trauma alone. Head injuries were frequent in those killed solely by trauma.


https://www.wemjournal.org/article/S1080-6032%2807%2970258-2/fulltext

I wouldn't be surprised if overall US figures were similar to Canada and Europe.

* Jarry F. When do we dig? Snow and Avalanches, no 121, April 2008
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davidof wrote:
In the paper, When do we dig. Jarry analyzed 440 avalanches in France where there were complete burials. Burial depth was an average of 120cm. That requires a tonne of snow to be moved and to do that in 15 minutes needs good avalanche management skills and sufficient diggers (3 would be good but 2 is a minimum). Again the French figures show that survival rates drop rapidly for anyone buried more than 50 cm under snow with very very few live rescues at more than 2 meters.


Interesting, I was going by memory with my suggestion that it's 1.8m in Europe, I'll check if I have an actual source or just a poor memory.

edit.. The Neige et avalanche article is on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/document/274703918/Neige-et-avalanche
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... I think there’s some unrealistic thinking here and I feel quite strongly that suggesting that people aren’t properly equipped when they’re carrying exactly the right gear might be unhelpful. What I think would good form or best practice is to prepare for scenarios that are likely and figure out what skills might make a decisive difference.
Precisely this.

On First Aid, I think that the problem is that by the time you get the victim out it's too late.
Once more the statistics would presumably show the truth, but I'd expect few people died because they were dug out then failed to be resuscitated.
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philwig wrote:

On First Aid, I think that the problem is that by the time you get the victim out it's too late.


I think that assumption would be incorrect. As I've pointed out the most common cause of death for avalanche victims (worldwide) is asphyxiation. Effective CPR followed by more advanced life support has good outcomes in these cases. This is why ICAR (International Commission for Alpine Rescue) produce protocols for rescuers, broadly these state that CPR is started apart from a few stated exceptions.

philwig wrote:
Once more the statistics would presumably show the truth, but I'd expect few people died because they were dug out then failed to be resuscitated.


Technically, if anyone with asphyxiation dies then it's because they failed to be resuscitated. Obviously, that's picking at language to a degree but it's also true.

Normal CPR, in the everyday environment, results in only a "few" extra people surviving. If you drop down with a cardiac arrest in the street in the UK your chances of survival is about 1/10. If you do that in Norway it's about 1/4 (*) because there's more bystander CPR. You might take a view that 1/4 is only a few - the consensus is that it's a lot and enough to justify training and public health programs. I would agree - with some basic skills a few more people will survive after an avalanche burial as well.

You suggest that we don't do first aid because only a few extra people survive - that's always the case. In fact, we do give first aid and CPR because a few extra people do survive.

(*) in as much as direct comparison is possible - but, be in no doubt effective CPR does save lives.
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Sadly it has been "too late" in my personal experience, but anecdote doesn't make a statistic.

Charts of survival rates versus burial time suggest that it is often too late. I'd love to see statistics which suggest otherwise.
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This is quite an interesting paper. Based on burial depths and survival rates they calculate 1.9 meters as the optimal probing depth for an organized probe line search for maximum recovery of live victims. This doesn't apply directly to a transceiver followed by probe search but is an interesting result.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0175877
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philwig wrote:
Sadly it has been "too late" in my personal experience, but anecdote doesn't make a statistic.

Charts of survival rates versus burial time suggest that it is often too late. I'd love to see statistics which suggest otherwise.


In fact, this is the common misinterpretation of those charts. In essence, they're showing a burial time against survival. In this context, survival would be survival to discharge. These are being read to produce a conclusion that burial time is the only determinant which really isn't true. It's a misinterpretation that I find rather worrying.

What we really ought to ask is what impact a quality intervention makes. Fortunately, we know a lot about that and while these concepts might seem unfamiliar they are well known to ICAR and in the literature. More generally they're well known and given specific consideration in guidelines from the European Resuscitation Council in the guidance from 2015 (*). There is a consensus, CPR measurably improves outcomes.

The ICAR MEDCOM consensus protocol (2002, 2013) was actually updated in 2015, previously CPR was recommended for burials up to 35min. Confidence is now increased to 60min reflecting better advanced life support and other factors. This update was peer-reviewed and published in the Resuscitation Journal in 2015(**) reflecting the updated ERC guidelines.

I'm sorry to bury you with acronyms and protocols but I think you're seeking to suggest this is somehow not well-known and agreed. That's very, very much not the case.

It seems to me that this isn't reaching the public at times. That bothers me and I happened to be at a meeting this week where we discussed exactly that.

(*) read sections 2 - BLS, 4 - cardiac arrest in special circumstances and 9 - first aid for example.
(**) Kottmann A, Blancher M, Spichiger T, et al. The Avalanche Victim Resuscitation Checklist, a new concept for the management of avalanche victims. Resuscitation 2015;91:e7–8, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.resuscitation.2015.03.009.
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Thank you for the education on that. This is the latest info I could find out of BC, which suggests trauma as much more of an issue, but not the main one. They were stressing trauma on the avi course and the feeling on the hill seemed to be that you would travel further with an airbag and thereby risk getting treed more. Just to add another horror the deaths from tree wells were as many as the avi deaths (maybe dodgy interior BC stats).

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/winter-activity.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwjX86DP-bfbAhWKXMAKHd7LAH8QFjAKegQIARAB&usg=AOvVaw29fqq6sCup_V9TQ0Hz2mzv
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Looking at the link I posted thats almost certainly where my trainers got their info from. Worth a read 😁
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Sorry to spam. Worth a read also happy ending. Different snow in bc?http://powdercanada.com/2018/04/skier-survives-4-meter-avalanche-burial/
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motdoc wrote:
Thank you for the education on that. This is the latest info I could find out of BC, which suggests trauma as much more of an issue,


That document mixes avalanche and other causes.
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That paper refers to all deaths not just in avalanches. Of the incidents they're looking at only 41% were avalanches.

Their conclusions are drawn from the same datasets that the papers I cited use. Those clearly show that trauma isn't the main cause of death in avalanches.
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Thanks again. Maybe time to buy an airbag 😝
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Ok 😀 I'm not sure that's the conclusion I'd reach from the figures you shared there.

Even though they're not just skiers, they're a useful reminder that there's a whole range of hazards in the mountains.

A useful thought I'd say.
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@NickT, Lockwoods and Facewest do packages.
I would agree with what’s been said above, plus one for the Mammut transceivers, and plus one for the Bruce Temper book.
Interesting comments on the probe, I skied one season with a guy who had been a Canadian Ski patroller. We did a couple of sessions practicing avalanche drills. He was very much in favour of the longer probes for Canadian conditions and also very much of opinion that while the transceiver will find where the body is buried, good probing technique and even more so good digging technique is vital to get the body out alive.
He was critical of much of the avalanche training he had witnessed in Europe, as it focused too much on transceivers, with little or no probing, and little of what he called serious digging. His version of serious digging was two guys in a line digging at top speed with serious shovels, plus having reinforcements standing by to jump in whenever someone slowed down a little. Opened my eyes.
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@ise, I was going to repost your links on the avalanche info page, but the resus check list one is broken.
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Try this http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.resuscitation.2015.03.009

Or there's just a full stop at the end of the other.


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Wed 6-06-18 6:57; edited 1 time in total
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jbob wrote:
@NickT, Lockwoods and Facewest do packages.
I would agree with what’s been said above, plus one for the Mammut transceivers, and plus one for the Bruce Temper book.
Interesting comments on the probe, I skied one season with a guy who had been a Canadian Ski patroller. We did a couple of sessions practicing avalanche drills. He was very much in favour of the longer probes for Canadian conditions and also very much of opinion that while the transceiver will find where the body is buried, good probing technique and even more so good digging technique is vital to get the body out alive.
He was critical of much of the avalanche training he had witnessed in Europe, as it focused too much on transceivers, with little or no probing, and little of what he called serious digging. His version of serious digging was two guys in a line digging at top speed with serious shovels, plus having reinforcements standing by to jump in whenever someone slowed down a little. Opened my eyes.


There are avalanche training syllabuses in North America which are very good. In Europe they're common in alpine clubs but not generally. In that regard North America is very good.

But the comments on shovelling are a bit wide of the mark. The systematic research on techniques and equipment came originally from Europe. The data for burial depth shows its about the same, maybe 20cm more in Canada.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228499861_The_V-Shaped_Snow_Conveyor_Belt
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jbob wrote:

He was critical of much of the avalanche training he had witnessed in Europe, as it focused too much on transceivers, with little or no probing, and little of what he called serious digging. His version of serious digging was two guys in a line digging at top speed with serious shovels, plus having reinforcements standing by to jump in whenever someone slowed down a little. Opened my eyes.


What training did he see? The French clubs are basically federated under the French Alpine Club (FFCAM) and the French Mountaineering Federation (FFME). The FFME is the government delegated body for ski touring (Ministry of Youth and Sports) and the syllabus for club leaders is broadly based on that for French guides because the ENSA (who give formal training to guides and ski instructors in France) is also part of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The FFCAM training follows the FFME structure as some of the same people are involved.

Training for club groups would consist of a day course for people who are going to participate in club trips. The aim is that you can operate under the direction of an experienced leader but you would not be expected to be autonomous. Clubs run these courses at the start of the season for all new members. In addition on almost every club trip there would be beacon exercises or shovelling exercises in real avalanche debris.

You would then probably do a weekend course. This would be run by an FFME trainer, probably with a qualified UIAGM guide experienced in delivering avalanche training. It would focus on beacon searching, probing, shovelling but also on evaluating the avalanche bulletin, terrain, heuristic traps etc. Quite a lot for a weekend. There would be a test where you would be expected to find and locate with a probe an avalanche beacon buried under at least 50cm of snow within 5 minutes.

For club leaders there is 5 days training. Again the focus is on avalanche avoidance, group management etc. You would be expected to have completed 1+1+1+2+2+2 days training and exams before coming on the course: that is: navigation, group management including crevasse rescue + avalanche safety.

On the 5 day training there is both continuous assessment and an exam where you would have to locate two deeply buried beacons within 15 minutes. Regarding digging, you'd be expected to organise a group of 3 or 5 diggers to recover a "body" under 2 meters of snow in the minimum time possible. I don't know what you mean by "serious shovels" - there is a limit to what you can carry on a tour. For me a serious shovel are the things the PGHM bring when they come to the scene on a helicopter.

That is a lot of training to get to club leader level - as well as spending a lot of time on club trips getting the necessary experience. The principal difference between the Guide training and Club Leader Training is the guide training they are really looking for reasons to fail people. The assumption being that a club trip will generally have other autonomous and experienced people in the group - generally there will be a 2nd leader in any club group.

You are supposed to repeat the 5 day training every 5 years.

Even after all that errors are made but there are very few incidents these days involving the French alpine clubs.

Maybe Ise knows how the Swiss and Austrians run things?


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Wed 6-06-18 9:24; edited 1 time in total
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My observation is that there is more on digging technique now than there was when I first started taking courses on this stuff (about 15 years ago). Most of my training has been in Europe

Sample of 1 so read into that what you will
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