Prepare Yourself For An Avalanche


We’ve all heard of avalanches and seen them in James Bond films more than anywhere else in fiction but were you aware that on average between 150 and 200 die per year from an avalanche. Even more surprising is that in 1970 in Peru a whopping 22,000 people lost their lives in avalanches!


So what exactly is an avalanche and what can you do to prepare yourself for one because they are dangerous little blighters when on the loose.  Well, an avalanche is a mass of snow and ice that slides rapidly down an inclined slope, such as a mountainside or a hillside. Avalanches can be triggered by either natural forces (e.g. precipitation, wind drifting snow, rapid temperature changes), however most are caused by human activity. In fact a colossal 93% is the figure for human beings causing the catastrophe of an avalanche. In mountainous terrain, they are among the most serious hazards to human life and property. Avalanches are sometimes called snow-slides in both North America, Canada and in some South American countries too.


Beware a heavy amount of snow the day before as the risk of an avalanche is at its greatest 24 hours following a snowfall of 12 inches or more. Scarily, avalanches can reach speeds of 80 mph within about 5 seconds putting a Ford Escort to shame. The vast majority of avalanches (around the 90% mark) occur on slopes with angles between 30 and 45 degrees. Steeper slopes tend to continually slough snow, keeping a deep snowpack from building up. The snowpack on flatter slopes requires more force to move.


If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and are unfortunate to get caught in an avalanche then the bad news is that after one hour, only 1 in 3 victims buried in an avalanche is found alive.  So how do most people expire in an avalanche. Well, unsurprisingly hypothermia is pretty high on the list but the other most common causes of death are suffocation and wounds.


What you should be aware of is the human body as the human body is actually three times denser than avalanche debris and will sink pretty damn quickly. When the slide slows, clear air space to breathe, then punch your hand skyward. Once the avalanche stops, it settles like concrete.



As ever in our prepping series, make sure you are ready just in case there is an impending avalanche. Ensure you are as well prepared as you can possibly be so that you will be the one to survive and hopefully a big friendly Saint Bernard dog carrying a flask of rum will locate you in the snow and come to your rescue.


As we always stipulate use your common sense and keep a hold of our checklist. Here are 4 essentials in case of an avalanche.


Checklist -With various options.


Avalanche Transceiver. This also known as a beacon. This alternative term, though, sometimes causes confusion with a personal locator beacon (also known as a PLB), which can transmit a call for help but won’t aid in finding a companion in the snow. An avalanche transceiver transmits a local signal in send mode from the victim and picks up that signal in search (or receive) mode used by the victim’s companions. It is almost imperative that you have this piece of equipment if survival is a friend of yours. Avalanche transceivers are worn on the body and continuously emit a radio signal that can be picked up by other transceivers in the area almost like a blackbox which transmits a signal in an aeroplane. Friends, colleagues and fellow skiers and climbers can with transceivers switch them to “search” mode to locate a buried person’s signal, and with a probe help them pinpoint exactly where to dig.

Here’s a few that you should look out for.

The rather snappily titled Mammut Pulse Barryvox (dreadful name) is currently on offer through for a measly £204.00 when it’s usually up for grabs for £300.00. So grab yourself a bargain. 100 day returns – With an easy email sign up. FREE 3-year extended warranty – With an easy email sign up. Klarna – Pay with installments over £70 – 18+, T’s & C’s apply and they offer a Price match promise – With an easy email sign up of course.


Also a great buy from is the DSP Sport LVS-Gerat and if the name doesn’t quite trip off the tongue then the specifications just might as it’s a long range, single function key and the intelligent transmitter system offer the greatest possible support in all situations.

There is a whole host goodies available with this beauty which incorporate the following.

Circular reception range, digital, all around in all directions. Direction and distance display from the first signal (without special working method). 3 antennas enable pinpoint location. Search strip width: 45 meters (regardless of the coupling position). Smart transmitter: auto antenna switch, signal shifting, IProbe support. Motion sensor for optimized power consumption. Most precise self-check: Checking the transmission frequency, receiving antennas, amplifiers, processors and battery every time the device is switched on. Mark function supports multiple burials (max. 1 transmitter). Age device mode. Pieps carrying system:. high wearing comfort with low weight. Neoprene bag with soft shoulder strap. Quick-Pull System for quick device removal. Verifiable and upgradeable to the latest firmware, even on your own PC / Mac

If you like the Technical specifications then: Frequency: 457kHz (EN300718). Power supply: batteries, alkaline (AAA), IEC-LR03, 1.5V. Battery life: at least 200 hours of transmission operation. Max. Range: 50 meters. Search strip width: 45 meters. Earphone socket: Stereo earphones 3.5mm, min 32 ohms. Temperature range: -20 ° C to + 45 ° C. Dimensions (mm): 115x74x28. Scope of delivery: Pieps DSP Sport, carrying system, manual, hand strap, 3x AAA batteries. also provide an option with the BCA Tracker4™ Avalanche Beacon which like it’s rivals above ain’t going to win any awards for a sexy name but it’s one of the prestige Transceivers available and can be yours for $389.95.


So there’s a few options for you for transceivers and is probably the most important feature to you so it might come as a bit of a down to earth moment that the next thing you are going to want in case of an emergency in the snow is a shovel.


A Shovel. Now that might sound minimal but these days the humble shovel comes in all shapes and sizes and with varying features. Let’s be brutally honest we’ve come quite a way from Scott of the Antarctic even in the last ten years. So here are a couple of winners you might want to equip yourself with to dig yourself out of a sticky situation.

Have a nose on and you will discover the Black Diamond Deploy 7 Snow Shovel which like most shovels today can be broken down into a number of individual parts. This fellah clocks in at $74.95 which is a snip of a price if it helps to save your life.


Meanwhile as ever, have a number of decent choices if you are looking for the proverbial shovel. DMOS Alpha Expedition Shovel – Strong, Stowable, High-Performance, Perfect for Car/Truck, Snow, Survival, Camping, Off-Road, Emergency, and Other Outdoor Activities.

If their above sales pitch hasn’t got you watering at the mouth and you are an ice cool customer then it is available to shovel up for $169 US but be aware of the shipping fees.


I guess we call a spade a spade but there are different names these days for a shovel including expedition vessels, (what?),  snow trowels, snow removal kits and snow survival tools. Here is one that sits in the latter category but looks pretty impressive, again it’s available on EST Gear Survival Shovel | The Ultimate Survival Tool | Military Gear Folding Shovel | Compact Tactical Entrenching Tool Perfect for Camping, Backpacking and Emergencies with a Lifetime Replacement.

This good looking shovel can be yours for the price of $119.99 plus shipping of course which ranges wildly depending on where you live. I’ve got a soft spot for this ‘no messing’ shovel and if it were a man it would be John Wayne. It looks like it takes no prisoners. It has: 18 SURVIVAL TOOLS IN ONE – The EST Gear camping shovel includes a saw, camping axe, knife, hunting spear, bottle opener, fire starter, hoe, wire-cutter, trowel, survival shovel, hexagon wrenches, nail puller, ice pick, ruler, hook, waterproof storage that can store waterproof matches and other camping supplies, screw driver, whistle compass and rope cutter. COMPACT SIZE – Perfect survival gear for travel. This foldable shovel is full-sized, comes with a survival axe, and can fit easily inside the durable, packable ripstop nylon pouch. Perfect for keeping in your car or bug out bag in case of emergency. LIGHTWEIGHT & VERSATILE – The EST shovel is a great addition to your camping gear and perfect for prepping and survival. The tactical shovel has a hardened-steel, reinforced shovel head and a military-grade aluminum handle. INDESTRUCTIBLE – Made with heat-treated, high quality, solid carbon steel and Aerospace Grade Aluminum for maximum strength and lifetime durability. Go ahead, add it to your backpacking gear and put it to the test! LIFETIME REPLACEMENT – This multitool shovel was made to last forever, but if something does happen to it, we will replace it at no cost to you.

Any shovel with a camping axe, a hunting spear and a wire cutter gets my vote and that’s before I saw it has a bottle opener. With a lifetime guarantee i’m hooked. Let’s hope it can shift snow too!


Survival First Aid Kit. Another important feature on your list should be a survival first aid kit that is specific in the case of any emergency and major disaster. Including an avalanche. Many providers offer a specialised first aid kit at the top end of the spectrum just in case. You can find these everywhere on the internet at the usual online stores such as on ebay, Amazon, ebuyer etc however look for the more specialised online shops too, places like Millets, Army Stores etc are excellent places to view some crème de la crème survival first aid kits. is a decent place to start and they have the top of the range SURVIVAL Marine Scale G First Aid KIT. OK, it is not cheap at €360.36 although the same kit can be found on this site for €109.87 too so hunt around, mind you staying alive has no price, right? The amount of components the Australian company has managed to cram into this kit is simply breathtaking.

Here we go: 50 x Adhesive dressings, sterile, individually wrappedAntiseptic/Wound Care – saline, sterile, 30ml x2. 1 x Bandage shears, 19cm stainless steel. 1 x Combine dressing, sterile, 10cm x 20cm. 3 x Conforming bandage, 7.5cm x 1.8m unstretched. 3 x Conforming bandage, 5cm x 1.8m unstretched. 5 x Cotton gauze swabs, (3 per pack), sterile, 7.5cm x 7.5cm. 1 x CPR Card. 1 x Emergency blanket, 2.1m x 1.6m in zip lock bag. 4 x Eye pads, sterile. 3 x Fever scan strip. 1 x First Aid Booklet. 5 x Hydro gel, sterile 3.5ml sachets. 1 x Hypo allergenic adhesive tape, 25mm wide roll. 1 x Ice Pack (instant). One use only.. 5 x Nitrile gloves (1 pair in CPR KIT). 6 x Non-adherent wound dressing, sterile, 5cm x 5cm. 3 x Non-adherent wound dressing, sterile, 7.5cm x 10cm. 1 x Non-adherent wound dressing, sterile, 10cm x 10cm. Note pad (located at the back of the First Aid Booklet) & pencil. 3 x Plastic bags (3 sizes). 2 x Pressure bandage – 1 SMART Bandage, heavy duty, 10cm x 2m; 1 medium weight, 10cm x 1.8m. 1 x Resuscitation shield, disposable, incl 1 pair gloves & 1 skin cleaning wipe (in CPR KIT). 6 x Safety pins. 4 x Saline, sterile, 30ml. 10 x Skin cleaning wipes, with cetrimide (1 with CPR KIT). 10 x Splinter probes, 5 per pack, sterile. 2 x Triangular bandage, 96cm x 96cm x 136cm. 1 x Tweezers, rust resistant with tip guard, stainless steel. 3 x Wound closures (3 per pack), sterile. 1 x Wound dressings, No 14 medium, sterile. 1 x Wound dressings, No 15 large, sterile.

So the only item missing seems to be an inflatable dinghy but don’t be surprised if that’s included in the next upgrade.


Good old Amazon can also find you some great survival kits and for £290.92 you can pick up this nifty piece of kit on the site.

Cxraiy-HO First Aid Kit Medication Storage Lockable For Home, Travel &Workplace Medical First Aid Kit Medicine Storage Box. It has a large storage space, can carry a variety of drugs, is very convenient to use, beautifully designed, easy to open First Aid Box First Aid Kit  and close, and is convenient for various medical supplies.


One we have mentioned previously is the highly recommended all round first aid kit, the Mountain Leader Pro First Aid Kit from which retails at £79.99. The Mountain Leader Pro first aid kit provides the equipment needed to care for a group of between 1 and 16 people. Primarily intended for use when leading serious expeditions in the great outdoors, the contents have been specified with the help of members of the British Special Forces medical team to ensure essential items are close to hand when professional medical care may be some distance away. The Mountain Leader Pro is the most comprehensive First Aid Kit assembled by Lifesystems.


So the final piece of our survival puzzle is the Snow Probe. ‘A what?’, I hear you cry. A snow probe.


A Snow Probe. This item is a collapsible pole made out of aluminum or carbon that’s used to poke through avalanche debris in order to find a buried victim whether dead or alive. Resembling a folding rod that you’d use for erecting a tent, an avalanche snow probe is what rescuers use to search for someone beneath the snow, hopefully after they’ve quickly located the person by sight or by using an avalanche transceiver.


Here are a couple to peruse over when looking for the perfect pole. is the place to go for the Probe Pieps Iprobe Bt 260. The cost is £179.11.

This is not just any old probe, this is state of the art…erm art. An all singing all dancing pole. It even says in the sales pitch ‘The Iprobe BT 260 is a great help in locating avalanche victims thanks to its many features’.

So what are its main features? Well, It’s quick to unfold and set up, and its visual and audible touch indicator makes searching easier. In addition, thanks to its automatic standby mode, the proximity indicator is displayed if a transmitting avalanche beacon is located within 2 meters of the probe. This is a very useful function, especially in the case of multiple burials. The whole device is managed wirelessly thanks to the Bluetooth function and the Pieps smartphone app.

 It incorporates a Centimeter scale, Bluetooth, Auto-Switch On/Off, Proximity indicator, Visual and audible positive touch indicator, Multiple burial location aid with sleep-mode of PIEPS with iPROBE Support. The Power supply is a 1 AA battery and it Weighs in at a lightweight: 420 g (including battery).

You can shoot over to for an alternative for €71.75. The Mammut Probe 240 Kurz Lambdasonde Kit Arva Backcountry Freeride Lawine Snowboard is another aluminum pole.

The probe 240 is a stable, lightweight avalanche probe made of high-quality aluminum with integrated telescopic lock for a bad operation. The practical coverage of the probe indicates an integrated non-integrated emergency plan. It’s only 245 grams and has an inlay of 7 segments. Diameter is 11 mm  and folded length is 38 cm while the extension length is 240 cm. It has a clamping system telescopic lock that sounds fairly intriguing and a robust tensile rope for maximum stability of the special clamping system. You can use it with gloves and there is a practical probe cover with integrated emergency plan which is fairly cool.

Al we always suggest plan well in advance and test out the equipment where appropriate. It is important to make a plan and work out what you need in advance then you will be well on your way to ensuring you can survive an avalanche.

Be safe. Be secure. Be ready. Be sensible.