Mountains have a magical attraction. At the same time, the alpine environment holds natural dangers. Especially in winter, when the peaks are wrapped in white snow, there is a critical factor: avalanches. The following three pieces of equipment are part of every ski tour.

A contribution by Fabian Reichle - Bächli Bergsport

Weather, amount and type of snow as well as the terrain all have an impact on potential avalanches. Ski tours and snowshoe hikes must therefore be carefully planned in order to get safely through the terrain. However, there is always a residual risk. Then the practiced handling of rescue equipment can decide over life and death.

In the cold season there are essential pieces of equipment that must always be at hand: avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes are an absolute minimum. We would like to take a closer look at this standard equipment.

1. The avalanche transceiver LVS

The most technically sophisticated device of the three is that LVS, In principle, it is nothing more than a small handheld device that can receive and send signals. If you are traveling in a group in open terrain - nobody should leave alone anyway - set the LVS to Send. In the event of a burial, the victim can be searched in the avalanche cone using the receive mode. Sounds simple, in principle it is.

Picture Bächli mountain sports

It must be intuitive to use, a good avalanche transceiver. The fight against time has to be quick, in stressful situations anyway. The more comfortable you feel with dealing, the better. When buying an avalanche transceiver, you should not be put off by supposed professional devices. On the contrary: These are often also advantageous for beginners, since they offer great added value with practical details in the event of an emergency.

Little, vital helper

Are avalanche transceivers an achievement of modern technology? Not at all. The first models, such as the one, had been around since the early 70s Mammut's Barryvox, At that time there were no transmission standards, which meant that not all models were compatible with each other. Equipped with only one antenna, the search at that time with the analog devices was exhausting and required a lot of practice. No comparison to today: All avalanche transceivers send and receive on a standard frequency, fully digital. Signals are recorded with three antennas as standard, which means that buried subjects can be detected in all three directions of movement.

Nevertheless, no one with an avalanche transceiver is allowed to weigh in the wrong safety. The handling of the device should be practiced and search processes must be trained. The correct way of wearing under the top layer of clothing, far from other electronic devices, must also be observed. And an important conceptual detail: the cumbersome name avalanche transceiver has its justification. An avalanche transceiver is neither able to detect avalanches nor to prevent them.

If you have your LVS under control, you will find an excellent lifesaver in the device. Even if it is hopefully never used.

2. The probe

While the LVS is responsible for the rough orientation, so is that Probe the device for the fine. A buried person can be located with the avalanche transceiver, but ultimately it "only" delivers the shortest distance of the sending device under the snow masses. Before the rescuer reaches for the shovel, it is important to determine the precise position of the victim. This is where the probe comes in.

In principle, the probe is a long rod that is inserted into the snow. Over and over again until resistance indicates that the person was found under the avalanche. The depth is also visible, because each probe has a meter measure. Only after a probe hit does the handle come to the shovel.

Picture Bächli mountain sports

Like all other emergency devices, a probe must be intuitive to use. Packed in a backpack, it consists of several tubular elements that can be put together in no time with a cord. Depending on the model, the length varies between 240 and 320 cm. Personal preference is paramount here, the probe is certainly the most pragmatic part of the standard avalanche equipment.

In and out

There are differences in the material: aluminum or carbon for the pipes; Nylon, Kevlar or steel for the cord. In principle, the more aluminum and the thicker the elements, the more resistant the probe is. This can be crucial, because you always come across coarse stones and hard snow in avalanches. In addition, the device must always be easy to operate and operate even in freezing cold.

One question that you hear over and over again is whether it is not dangerous if you accidentally hit an eye on the victim. The answer to this is very simple: it is better to live blind in one eye than dead. The probe is a lifesaver, not a spear.

3. The avalanche shovel

A Shovel is a tool. A primitive on top of that. It has a blade and a shaft. Hold on to the shaft and use the sheet of material to get rid of it, it's as simple as that. And even if the purpose of the device is already explained, there is more to it. It is the small, fine details that make up an efficient avalanche shovel. Starting with the material.

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There are primarily blades made of aluminum, carbon and plastic. The latter have not been manufactured for a good reason for some time. Plastic becomes brittle over time and is prone to breakage in cold temperatures. So stay away from it, even if you stumble across a lucrative bargain. Carbon has the great advantage of being light in weight, but it is also delicate because it can also break. However, the material definitely makes sense for ski races in which every gram counts and digging is not to be expected. Aluminum blades are the first choice for general use. They are durable, bendable and yet acceptable in weight.

Details and technology

A shovel is bulky, but it still has to have space in the backpack and be quickly at hand. When buying, make sure that the device is easy to carry. The rest is a matter of taste: what should it be? Large blade to lift more snow, with more force, or small blade with the opposite effect? What can the handle look like? How long should the shaft be? Here it is important to sound out personal preferences and ideally test a shovel.

In the end, the right technique is much more important. Only those who dig through the avalanche efficiently can quickly fall victim. The best method is the so-called V-shaped snow conveyor. Here, a "snow wedge" is dug horizontally to the spilled person.

It doesn't always have to be an emergency. Snow shovels also help preventively when digging snow profiles. Or even less dangerous: very simple when building an igloo or kickers.

Even more protection thanks to the avalanche airbag

Those who go freeriding, tackle a ski tour or go snowshoeing in remote terrain should be as well prepared for the worst case as possible. In addition to the standard equipment, an avalanche airbag and, of course, a helmet are recommended - in addition to the risk of suffocation, there is also the risk of avalanches severe injury, Any equipment that increases the chances of survival makes sense. Finally, a routine handling of it is essential. Therefore: practice, practice, practice.

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About Bächli mountain sports

Bächli mountain sports is the leading Swiss specialist shop for climbing, mountaineering, expeditions, hiking, ski touring and snowshoeing. At currently 13 locations in Switzerland, Bächli Bergsport offers its customers expert advice and high-quality service. Published on LACRUX Bächli mountain sports periodically exciting contributions to the topics climbing, bouldering and mountaineering.

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Credits: Cover picture Wikimedia / Dahu1, other pictures Bächli mountain sports