Avalanche Gear

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Avalanche search and rescue gear can be broken down into three groups: avalanche avoidance, avalanche survival and search and rescue. Given that avalanches prove fatal to 50% of victims that are completely buried even when equipped with avalanche transceivers the emphasis should be on avalanche avoidance and here the most important tool is the backcountry traveller's brain and the experience that comes with reading up on the subject, attending courses and going out with more experienced people. When planning an off-piste trip planning is important and topographic maps such as the French IGN series are important. A clinometer and compass are important tools for gauging slope aspect and steepness. Remember in winter the majority of avalanches occur on north-west to east aspects on slopes greater than 30 degrees.

If caught by an avalanche three factors are important. Depth of burial, whether there is air to breath and whether searchers have visual clues as to your location. The ABS Airbag can help keep you near the surface of a slide. The less complicated avalanche ball can give rescuers a visual clue to your whereabouts and the AvaLung can help you survive longer when under the snow buying precious time. Of course none of these will help with the broken bones and torn ligaments many avalanche victims experience.

Finally avalanche transceivers, probes and snow shovels should always be carried, even where the backcountry traveller is equipped with an ABS Airbag or other safety system. None of this equipment should be used to take on greater risk. Winter sports enthusiasts should always ask themselves the question: "Would I cross this slope without a transceiver or ABS?"

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