To watch and enjoy white snow everywhere is just a very calming, and soothing experience, but one of the biggest threats over snowy hills are avalanches, which you should be aware of. Avalanches are also known by the name snowslides and most of the time, they appear just simultaneously. They sometimes prove very dangerous to life and property. The main reasons for natural avalanches are heavy snowfall, heavy snowstorms, earthquakes, rain, steep slopes, warm temperature, etc. But sometimes, human activities can also be the reason for avalanches. So it’s very important to protect yourself from these avalanches. But apart from that, there are many safety gears, which you should be aware of, so that in case you are caught in an avalanche, then it helps you to get a rescue. Let’s get to know about some common safety gears, which are as follows:
ESSENTIAL SAFETY GEARS
The list of basic safety gears includes avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel, and every member of your group should have this complete kit before you are going to hit the snowy mountains. This essential safety equipment basically helps to find and rescue you, in case you get buried under snow due to avalanches. Let’s discuss them in detail:
Avalanche beacons are also called avalanche transceivers. These electronic devices basically work on sending and receiving signals i.e. if an avalanche happens and one of your group members gets buried under snow due to an avalanche, then all of the other group members can turn their beacon to the search mode, which helps them find him/her. Nowadays, these latest beacons are very effective, fast, and easy to use. It’s good to wear them on your base layer i.e. close to your body, rather than in the outer pocket.
There are a variety of transceivers available in the market i.e. from basic to advance transceivers. As a beginner, the normal one goes well with you, because they are quite easy to operate. Whichever model you choose, just make sure you practice using it well before, so that you know how to operate it well without thinking about it in an emergency. And do check its battery, software update, and if it functions accurately every time you go out for skiing, snowboarding, or any other snow activity.
Transceivers are used to get the idea of the location of the buried person, but probes are best to get the pinpoint of that location. It’s like a long tent-pole, which gets folded and easily fits in your backpack. In general, it’s about 240-300cm for normal snowpack, but for deep snowpack, you can use probes of more length i.e. around 320cm. They are usually made up of carbon-fiber-based (which are very light in weight) or aluminum-based materials.
Just make sure to read the instructions before that specifies how to use it and always check out if it’s working properly and is not in the wear-n-tear condition. The earliest you find your buried group member, the more he/she has the chance to survive. So, do carry the one always with you before hitting snowy hills.
After probing, you’ll get the exact position of the buried person, now it’s time to shovel i.e. digging to rescue that person. Sometimes, even soft or fresh snow can get stiffen and get difficult to dig, so you should have a shovel made up of hard or tough material. Avalanche shovels come in various shapes like L-shape, D-shape, and a T-shape. A D-shaped shovel gives you a better grip, whereas L-shaped and T-shaped are the lighter ones.
So choose the one, which best suits you, but don’t pick the one which is too small, because with the smaller one it gets difficult to shovel and even takes more time. And do learn shovel techniques earlier, so that you can dig faster in case of an emergency to rescue your buried group member.
OTHER SAFETY GEARS
Apart from these essential safety gears, there are some safety gears as well, which you should know about and that are as follows:
Avalanche airbags are airbag backpacks that get inflatable and help to keep you near the surface. It basically minimizes the risk of getting buried under the snow if you get caught in avalanches. In general, by manually pulling the handle, your airbag gets filled and keeps you near the surface. Avalanche airbags usually come in two types i.e. JetForce Backpacks (you can release it many times) and Cartridge Backpacks (you need to refill or purchase the cartridge). They come in various brands and each may have a somehow different system to release the airbag. They also come in various sizes, so choose the one as per your purpose on snowy hills.
When you are going for your snow activity, it’s good to carry the map with you. It helps you to have a clear understanding of the track and the surroundings. It acts as a great safety gear in case you lost your way in the snowy hills. During an avalanche, if any of your group members get caught and buried under snow, then through probe you’ll get the location, but with the help of a map, you’ll get to know the different routes to reach there. So don’t forget to carry a map with you, especially when going for backcountry activities.
SNOW STUDY TOOLS
Snow study tools are used to get to know about the current situation and the snow stability of the area that you chose for the winter activity. Snow study tools contain slope meter, snow saw, and snow crystal card.
With the help of SLOPE METERS or inclinometers, you’ll get to know about the slope angles so get the estimation of avalanche possibility. Apart from this, clinometers are also being used to determine the slope angle. SNOW SAWS are good to test the stability of the snow, makes digging easy, and helps for building emergency snow shelter. Whereas SNOW CRYSTAL CARDS are used to analyze the multilayers of the snow i.e. have the deep knowledge of the shape and the size. This in turn helps you to analyze the slope angle and the fragile layers.
These snow-safety tools will help you make a wise decision so that to protect yourself from getting caught in avalanches.