How to stay safe

Three items to keep with you—just in case

 

Probe ($59.95 U.S.)
Credit: Black Diamond

Probe ($59.95 U.S.)

You'll use this more for measuring snow depths than anything else, but the long tent-pole-like prod will help you physically pinpoint a buried victim. Buy one with laser-etched measurements, otherwise they rub off. Try Black Diamond's Quickdraw Super Tour Probe, which snaps together quickly and easily and won't weigh you down.

Shovel ($40)
Credit: Voile

Shovel ($40)

Friction between snow crystals during an avalanche causes a little melting. When the debris settles, the snow freezes up into a slab of concrete only a metal shovel can penetrate. Don't be tempted by a plastic shovel, go aluminum and get one with an extendable handle to make digging easier, like the Voile Telepro Avalanche Shovel. It was the most durable in an abusive test.

Beacon ($450)
Credit: Mammut

Beacon ($450)

This is used to find someone buried in an avalanche. Practise searches, especially multiple burial situations, before you go out. It's okay to buy used if you know where it came from and how it was treated, otherwise buy new—this is your life insurance. Buy a digital beacon, which uses an onboard computer to speed up searches, like Mammut's Pulse Barryvox. It is one of the best on the market according to Beacon Reviews and I agree. It has one of the longest ranges since it begins searching in analog mode, and if the victim is using a Pulse, it can detect tiny movements to let you know they're still conscious. It also allows you to mark a beacon signal so it can be ignored during multiple victim searches, and the arrow directing to the victim rotates 360 degrees to reduce search times. Of course, all those features come with a price.

 

How to stay safe

When the snow piles up, it's a good time to equip with the right avalanche safety and rescue gear. (You can check conditions with the Canadian Avalanche Centre.) I've been teaching avalanche courses on Vancouver Island for 10 winters. Here's the gear I use and recommend.

 

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