We love an off-piste adventure as much as the next person. But to make these trips as safe as possible we need education on mountain safety and the right avalanche safety equipment. That is why we give all of the students on our Verbier, Courchevel and Meribel Residential BASI 1 and 2 courses the following 3 pieces of life saving kit.
For many of us there is no better feeling than getting fresh lines on a powder day. Getting away from the crowds for an off-piste adventure. But heading away from the maintained and managed pistes means we have to be in charge of our own safety. When skiing off-piste there is a risk of being caught in an avalanche and buried by the snow. If this happens then other people in your party need to be able to find you and dig you out as fast as possible. To help them do this they and you will need 3 key pieces of kit: A Transceiver, Shovel and Probe.
A transceiver is a digital tracking devise that both transmits a signal (allowing your friends to find you) and receives signals allowing you to search for other skiers wearing transceivers.
We chose the Ortovox Zoom+ because it is so simple and intuitive to use. It has advanced digital 3-antenna technology which allows signals to be clearly picked up no matter how the other transceiver is buried under the snow. Despite this sophisticated tech the Zoom+ is incredibly easy to use, even for those with limited experience. It only has 2 buttons. One to turn it on and off, the other to change between transmit (send) and receive (search). When in search mode the transceiver has both visual arrows to point you in the right direction and a numerical counter to show your distance from the buried skier. It also has a smart function which turns itself from receive (search) to transmit (send) if it is still for more than 120seconds, meaning searchers can still be found themselves if they were to be caught in a second avalanche.
We think this offers the perfect combination of quality tech with user friendly simplicity, meaning even for beginners this should be easy to use in a stressful situation.
Once you have located the buried skier with your transceivers using a probe to pinpoint their exact location can dramatically reduce the time it takes to dig them out. A probe is essentially a large mental pole that can penetrate easily through even heavily compacted snow.
We give our students the Ortovox 240 Economic which is a great beginners probe with a very low weight. It is 240cm long and weighs in at only 230grams meaning you can carry a bigger lunch in your pack!
Once you have located a buried skier it’s time to dig them out. Avalanched snow sets like concrete so you definitely need more than your bare hands to get through it. The Ortovox shovel we provide is call the Badger and is an ultra-lightweight aluminium blade and handle with an awesome volume of 2.5 liters. While plastic shovels are available and are lighter to carry, they have a tendency to crack in the cold when faced with seriously compacted snow so this hard wearing metal shovel is well worth any extra weight.
We cannot stress enough the importance of having the right kit with you if you are venturing off-piste. A buried victim’s chances of survival decrease significantly after 15 minutes so it is essential that we are able to find and reach them as quickly as possible. Each piece of kit described above helps shave off essential seconds to a search so it is all invaluable.
Not everyone will be lucky enough to own their own kit and so it can be hired from shops in resort, if you do hire kit make sure you take the time to get to know how it works.