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Avalanche Avoidance and Rescue. Outline. Who’s at risk. Types of avalanches. • What causes avalanches. Avalanche avoidance. • Companion/beacon rescue. • Details about the Unit’s DTS Tracker and its use. Winter mountain recreation has exploded in recent years. New user groups

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Presentation Transcript

Who’s at risk

Types of avalanches

• What causes avalanches

Avalanche avoidance

• Companion/beacon rescue

• Details about the Unit’s DTS Tracker and its use

Winter mountain recreation has

exploded in recent years

  • New user groups
    • Snowboarders
    • Snowmobilers
  • Open gate policies
  • Media
  • New technologies
    • Snowboards/splitboards
    • Alpine touring gear
    • Telemark gear (plastic and fat)
    • Snow safety equipment
    • Powerful snowmobiles
About 97% of people killed in

avalanches die while playing

Source: AAA

U.S. Avalanche fatalities by activity, 1990 to 2002

Almost all fatal avalanches

are slab avalanches

Point release (loose snow) avalanches are more easily predicted and usually less dangerous
If you understand the cause ofavalanches you can avoid them

• Weather

• Terrain

• Snowpack

• Human Factors

Most avalanches occur during and

immediately after storms...

  • New snow adds weight (stress) to the snowpack
  • New snow takes time to bond to layer underneath
Temperature, elevation and aspect (orientation) all affect snow stability

•Rapidly warming temperatures can weaken the snowpack

• You can have stability at one elevation but as you

climb or descend the snow profile can change

•Similarly, a slope at one aspect can be safe but

at a slightly different aspect can be very unstable

The majority of avalanches occur

on slopes between 30˚ and 45˚





The majority of avalanches occur

on slopes between 30˚and 45˚



slope shape also needs to be considered
Most slabs release on the bulge of convex slopes

Slabs can be triggered from above and below the slope

Slope shape also needs to be considered



a weak snowpack usually consists of a strong layer overlying a weak layer
A weak snowpack usually consists of a strong layer overlying a weak layer

• Learn to evaluate the snowpack

• There’s no substitute for on-snow

avalanche instruction

• Take a Level I avalanche course

• Practice

most killer avalanches are small and human triggered
Most killer avalanches aresmall and human triggered

1. Skier

2. Slope convexity

3. Roughly 30 degrees

4. Debris slid into concavity

Know before you go!

• Call local avalanche forecast center

• Know the snowpack history

• Talk to others who have been out

• Talk to ski patrol

Human factors
  • Attitude : people sometimes ignore danger signs due to pride, ego and ambition
  • Time : weekend warrior syndrome
  • Blue Sky : sunny weather sometimes draws people too soon after a storm
  • Herding Instinct : people think less in large groups
with good back country habits you can avoid avalanche danger
With good back country habits, youcan avoid avalanche danger

1. Expose only one person at a time

2. Get out of the way at the bottom

3. Never cross above your partner

4. Have an escape route planned

5. Remove pole straps and safety straps

6. Travel in the same route when possible

7. Keep your partner in sight

8. Travel to points of safety

consider the terrain consequences in route selection
Consider the terrainconsequences in route selection

Will I go over a cliff?

Will I get crushed by trees?

Will I get cut by sharp rocks?

Will I be buried?





Source: AAA

Asphyxiation is the cause

of most avalanche fatalities

…but if you get to them fast

enough, you can save them

If recovered within 15 minutes,

chances of survival are almost 92%

At 35 minutes, survival rate drops to 37%


Alive (%)

After that, the success rate is extremely low.1


(422 completely buried victims)

Time in minutes

Only a member of your party or a

companion will likely save your life






…and most likely only if you

have an avalanche transceiver

Source: AAA

Search times in 100mx100m area

If an avalanche occurs


• If caught, yell so other people see you.

Then close your mouth.

• If you can grab a tree or dig into the slope,

do it.

• Discard gear like skis and poles.

• Fight with all of your effort, try to stay on the


• As the snow slows, try to thrust a hand upward above

the snow surface.

• Before the snow stops, try to clear an air space in front

of your face.

• If buried, do not panic! Stay calm and try to relax.

If an avalanche occurs


• Watch the victim(s) as they are carried

down the slope. Look for “last seen point.”

• Make sure it is safe to begin a search.

• Organize the search party.

• Mark the area where the victim was last

seen and begin search here. Look for

any clues.

• Begin beacon search

• When victim is located, confirm depth and

location with probe dig fast but carefully.

What do you need for a rescue?

1. Avalanche beacon follows electronic signal to buried victim

2. Probe verifies depth and location of buried victim

3. Shovel removes snow

Signal strength depends upon distance

receiving unit




Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Signal strength depends upon orientation


Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Signal strength depends upon orientation


Colorado Avalanche Information Center

There are three phases of a transceiver search

Objective: Detect

strong signal

Coarse Search


Fine Search


Objective: Get close to buried transmitter

(about 3 meters)

Objective: Locate strongest signal, minimize probe and digging area

Pinpoint Search


Fine search techniques




Coarse search

Signal picked up here, fine search begins

Pinpoint search

The three search phases would looksomething like this for a single searcher:

1. Coarse search

2. Fine search

3. Pinpoint search

What about two searchers?

1. Coarse

Probe and shovel!

2. Fine

3. Pinpoint

What about a last seen point?

Eliminates this area

for searching

Last seen point

Search begins at star

Six people skiing



Debris area

Four rescuers and two victims

Last seen point,

search begins here

The four searchers will begin their search at the last seen point. Two will pinpoint while the other two probe and prepare to shovel.
basics specifications of dts tracker beacon
Frequency 457 kHz

Three AAA batteries

250 hours in transmit, 50 hours in search

Receive range up to 50 meters

Normal effective range is 10 meter radius

Normal search mode window is 180°

Special search mode widow is 75°

Minimum temperature range at 66% battery is -10° C (14° F) for transmit and -20° C(-4° F) for search

Basics Specifications of DTS Tracker Beacon
basics of operating dts tracker beacon
Black strap is the waist strap, red is shoulder

Can unbuckle beacon to extend it without removing waist strap

During start up, should have 95 to 99% battery display

After start up, enters transmit (tr) mode and side light flashes

To enter search mode, hold Search/Transmit Button down until display changes to “SE” and beacon beeps three times

Directional LED points along the flux line

Distance along flux line is in meters

To go back to transmit mode, push the Search/Transmit Button

Basics of Operating DTS Tracker Beacon
options for dts tracker beacon
Auto-Revert System

Hold down Options Button while starting

“Ar” will be shown in display

After 5 minutes in search mode, beacon will sound 10 second alarm then switch to transmit mode unless Search/Transmit Button is pushed

Options for DTS Tracker Beacon
options for dts tracker beacon1
Special Mode

While in search mode, hold down Options Button until “SP” is displayed

Normal search only indicates the strongest signal within about 10 meters.

Special search indicates all signals within search window no matter what strength

Search window is reduced from 180° to 75°

Options for DTS Tracker Beacon
options for dts tracker beacon2
Turning Off The Vastly Annoying Beep

To stop the beeping sounds in search mode, push the Options Button until “L0” is displayed

To turn the sound back on, push the Options Button until “L1” is displayed

Options for DTS Tracker Beacon
single victim search with dts tracker
Turn all beacons to search

Start at last seen location and use coarse search pattern to find a signal

Look for surface clues while moving

Move beacon in slow horizontal and vertical pattern to help find a signal

Once a signal is located, mark the location and follow the flux line indicated with the top LED and decreasing distance

Move rapidly to 10 meters then start moving slowly to around 3 meters

Once at about 3 meters, start to move very slowly and use pinpoint bracket or line method to locate closest point for probing

Hold beacon right on snow surface

Ignore spike readings and LED fluctuation when this close

Single Victim Search With DTS Tracker
multiple victims using normal search mode
The search is the same up to locating the first signal

Follow the LED towards the closest beacon and when significantly closer to one beacon and within 10 meters, the Tracker will lock onto one beacon and mask out the others

When dug out, turn off the first beacon

If first beacon can’t be turned off but you have an idea where the next beacon is, head towards it until signal is isolated

If no idea where next beacon is, step back three paces and slowly walk a circle around the first beacon. If required, step back two more times and repeat the circle, then return to first signal location if required.

Once a signal is acquired when walking the circle, start towards it to isolate it

Multiple Victims Using Normal Search Mode
multiple victims using special search mode
The search is the same up to locating the first beacon and beacon can’t be turned off

With Tracker at lowest distance reading and center LED on, switch to special mode

Rotate the DTS Tracker – do not sweep it – slowly to find other signals

If no signal is detected, try standing up and rotating the DTS Tracker at chest height

If no signal is detected, step back three paces and try rotating the Tracker again

Once a signal is isolated note the distance and move rapidly about ¾ of the distance then switch back to normal search mode

Finish covering the entire avalanche area using a coarse search pattern to make sure all beacons are located

Multiple Victims Using Special Search Mode
tips for three or more victims
Three or more beacons, especially if close together, are very hard to separate out

Try decreasing coarse search overlap to 5 meters instead of 20

It is especially important to enter special search mode as close as possible to a beacon to help distinguish the distance to other beacons

Avoid going into special search mode over a beacon’s spike area

Pinpointing on a line can be very difficult if many beacon’s flux lines are all converging in one area, try the bracket method instead

Tips for Three or More Victims