Mammut Barryvox S Transceiver – Gear We Use

mammut barrivo s transceiver

Get stoked for winter with a new Mammut Barryvox S Transceiver.

Pop Quiz

  1. Should you face your transceiver towards your body, or away from your body?
  2. Why should you wear your avalanche transceiver under at least one layer of clothing?
  3. How far away from your transceiver should you carry any metals or electronics? (i.e cell phones, insulin pumps, go-pros).
  4. How full should your batteries be? 

Watch Kitty to get answers:

Avalanche Skills Checklist

backcountry skiers make a skin track used to emphasis avalanche skills checklist

How do you know if you know enough to recreate in a winter snowpack without a guide?  

There is no cut and dry answer but this Avalanche Skills checklist is a good start.

It can be risky business going out with confident friends. Choose your backcountry friends carefully!  This is a critical decision. Don’t be cavalier. Who will you leave the trailhead with? This goes for skiing, riding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice climbing.

Bottom line – consequences are high.  Decisions in the backcountry can be the most important ones you may ever make.  The mountains don’t care.

To quote Jeremy Jones,

Some days the mountains are screaming “get out of here,” and some days the mountains are going, “come on in, it’s time to party.”  

You and your group need to be able to discern the difference. It is never black and white.

Here’s a baseline list of skill sets I consider crucial for any recreational backcountry enthusiast, friends and partners included:

Avalanche Skills Checklist

  • __I own and know how to use avalanche safety equipment: transceiver, shovel and probe.
    • __I understand and I practice all my avalanche transceiver functions.
    • __I know how far away from my transceiver I have to carry my other electronic devices.
    • __I can check my partner’s transceiver at the trailhead and not miss any steps.
    • __I know how to probe and I practice probing.
    • __I know how to shovel and I practice shoveling.
  • __I do two or three companion-rescue drills every winter.
    • __I can find a buried transceiver in less than 5 minutes.
  • __I can identify avalanche terrain on small and large slopes.
    • __I carry an inclinometer and know how to check slope angle.
    • __I know the correct answer to the following true/false questions*:
      • __Avalanches can occur on slopes less than 30 degrees.
      • __Most avalanches occur on slope angles of 36 to 38 degrees.
      • __Lower-angled slopes can be connected to steeper slopes that pose risk.
      • __Slab avalanches are the most dangerous type of avalanche.
      • __Wind can increase avalanche danger.
      • __9 out of 10 avalanches are triggered by someone in the party.
      • __An avalanche-burial victim has 15 minutes before odds for survival decrease dramatically.
  • __ I have bookmarked my local weather and avalanche forecasts and I read them.
  • __ I’m unafraid to ask:
    • __Do you have avalanche training?
    • __Have you taken an avalanche rescue course?
    • __What’s the plan?
    • __What won’t we ski?
    • __Can we agree to evaluate a slope before anyone skis it, even if we’ve skied it before?
    • __If anyone feels uncomfortable with any slope, can we agree that we won’t ski it?
    • __What’s in your pack?
    • __Who has a first aid kit?
    • __Do you have a working communication device, repair kit and tarp or emergency blanket?
    • __Is your avalanche airbag functioning and is the handle ready to deploy?
  • __I have visited Know Before You Go.org and watched the 15-Minute General Audience Avalanche Awareness video.
  1. Get the Gear
  2. Get the Training
  3. Get the Forecast
  4. Get the Picture
  5. Get Out of Harm’s Way

*(All answers are true.)

Click on the following links for more information:

Chicks | Avalanche – Silverton Avalanche School Courses

Mammut Barryvox S Transceiver – Stoked For Winter Pop Quiz | Gear We Use

22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities | Ice Climbers At Risk

Snow Safety Epiphany

group of women ski touring as it relates to my snow safety epiphany

It was my second season backcountry skiing that I had a snow-safety epiphany. 

Until then, I’d been privileged with a strong group of experienced skiing partners, both male and female, to follow around.

On the day of my snow-safety epiphany, I happened to be backcountry skiing with a group of seven men. I was the only female. All day, I asked questions, “Why are we going this way? What are you thinking?” I had no idea. But nobody answered me. Instead, suddenly, one of the guys would take off, and the rest would fall behind him… “What?” Wait! I’d follow along, wondering what the heck?

But the kicker for me was that the guys had also invited a friend who had limited skiing experience. I had limited backcountry experience, but I’d been skiing my whole life. Our goal that day was a committing, 4000-foot, ski mountaineering objective. Not only was our friend a novice skier, he was hung-over, had limited water and no food. 

I stressed about our friend all day, meanwhile the guys laughed. I thought, “Great. If he breaks his leg, then what? He doesn’t even have enough water. What if he bonks?”

Later, the sun suddenly fell behind the ridge as I stood below and watched him face-plant. A humid wind pushed down the slope and met me in the face. And, I promised myself, from then on, that I’d gain the skills and knowledge to answer my own questions.

The next day I signed up for a weekend avalanche course at Brighton, Utah. And I talked to my friend and skiing partner, Julie. Together we committed to take a 3-Day Avalanche course in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Click on the following links for more information:

Chicks | Avalanche – Silverton Avalanche School courses

Angela’s Avalanche Skills Checklist

‘Tis the Season for Avalanche Training

22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities | Ice Climbers At Risk

avalanche above camp bird road

Helicopter assisted avalanche mitigation – big release into a gully above one of the many ice climbs on the Camp Bird Road, Ouray, Colorado. ©Angela Hawse

A recent study, 22 Years of Avalanche Fatalities by Activity and Trigger Type in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, Canada reveals that 43% of avalanche fatalities were ice climbers, 32% were skiers, and 18% were snowshoers. The study also reveals almost a 50/50 split between victims triggering avalanches themselves or getting hit by a natural from overhead.

table showing avalanche fatals by activity in the last 22 years in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay Parks, Canada

Looking at this study, it’s odd that many ice climbers and mountaineers throughout the world do not carry avalanche rescue equipment. This long-standing culture of climbers not carrying avalanche rescue equipment is especially odd considering ice and alpine climbs often involve avalanche terrain i.e. gullies or exposure on the approach or descent.

In contrast, backcountry skiers have always accepted responsibility for avalanche risk. The backcountry skiing code-of-conduct insists that everyone carries avalanche rescue gear.

Avalanche rescue gear is considered fundamental gear for backcountry skiers. Not only do backcountry skiers expect their partners to be properly equipped, they expect them to be adequately skilled in the event of an avalanche.

Although we see a shift towards avalanche awareness in climbing culture, Chicks wants to encourage all ice climbers and mountaineers to adopt the fundamentals of avalanche safety: always climb with avalanche gear and know how to use it. Don’t climb with anyone who doesn’t.

The best way to familiarize yourself with avalanche rescue gear and fundamental skills is to take a 1-day Avalanche Rescue Course.

Avalanche Rescue courses are not only for skiers. They are for everybody (skiers, boarders, climbers, snowshoers, sledders) who gets out in the mountains in the wintertime.

If you can’t afford to buy avalanche rescue gear, it’s easy to rent.

Again, having avalanche rescue gear as well as the ability to properly use avalanche rescue gear is the only chance for survival in the unfortunate event you or one of your partners is involved in an avalanche.

Together with the Silverton Avalanche School , Chicks is hosting three early-season, 1-day Avalanche Rescue Courses. Each course will be held in a different, yet equally fantastic Colorado San Juan Mountains location.

These clinics are offered throughout the country. Check out the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education’s Upcoming Public Avalanche Training Courses List. Get signed up for one before you set off pursuing your winter ice!

Avalanche Rescue Training – Get Avy Savy!

avalanche rescue training with Karen Bockel, Chicks Skiing Backcountry Hut trip participants about the avalanche forecast, avalanche problems types and terrain maps before going skiing

Snowfunatall! Avalanche Rescue Training – Studying avalanche forecast, avalanche problem types and terrain maps before going skiing. Chicks Skiing Backcountry Hut Trip, 2017. ©Jen Edney

Early winter is time for Avalanche Rescue Training.

Brush up on your avalanche-rescue skills. Refresh your avalanche understanding. And, get busy reading your local avalanche forecast.

Get Avy Savy!

Following are two great resources to get you thinking about snow safety.

Especially watch these videos if during the holiday travel season, you might find yourself at a new ski area or in new backcountry terrain.

This first video, An Introduction to the North American Avalanche Danger Scale, explains the North American Danger Scale and is produced by the National Avalanche Center.

Every forecast center in the US and Canada uses the North American Danger Scale to rate the avalanche hazard for the day. It’s important that you are familiar with this messaging tool. Understanding the North American Danger Scale will help you understand the avalanche forecast anywhere you might go in the mountains this winter.

This second video, Avalanche Problems Explained, provides further information with an explanation of the avalanche problem types that forecast centers use. These avalanche problem types give you a better idea of what kind of avalanches you need to be concerned about in a specific region. It really helps to identify the specific and particular hazards out there. Avalanche Problems Explained is my go-to for more information when I am reading a forecast

Ski Safely Ladies and I’ll see you on the slopes.

Can You dig?

Avalanche Rescue

Avalanche Rescue Course participants celebrate with their Certificate of Completion

Chicks Climbing and Skiing Joins Force with the Silverton Avalanche School

Avalanche Rescue Course trip report by Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA Mountain Guide

Hello Chicks!

I could not be more stoked about this new partnership between Chicks Climbing and Skiing and the Silverton Avalanche School.

In December, Sandy Kobrock and I hosted three one-day Avalanche Rescue courses.

Despite lack of snow, the courses were hugely successful—17 women from all over the state, and as far away as California, joined us in Ouray, Telluride and Silverton.

The Chicks Avalanche Rescue course is recognized by the American Avalanche Association (A3) as a pre-requisite for the Level 2 course and as a requirement for the PRO Level 1 and 2 courses.

We’re just getting this Avalanche Beta party started! Oh yeah—BIG CONGRATS, HIGH FIVES, GO YOU to all those who took the initiative to train for the unimaginable. Your partners are lucky.

Going up a skin track in the backcountry ©AveryStonich

Going up a skin track in the backcountry ©Angela Hawse

Skiing deep powder snow in the backcountry. ©AveryStonich

Skiing deep powder snow in the backcountry. ©AveryStonich

 

 

 

 

Caution! The Avalanche Rescue Course could be habit forming; it might spark backcountry addiction. We’ll be proudly responsible if you take another course, get an alpine touring set up and learn how to backcountry ski!

 

 

 

 

Choose backcountry partners carefully, training matters.

Did you know that avalanche transceiver searches are easy to practice anywhere that has tall grass, sand, wood chips, etc?

1) There are no tracks in the snow leading to the buried transceiver, giving it away.
2) It’s easier to focus on the essentials—executing the signal, course, fine and pinpoint searches—without the added challenge of moving over snow with ski or riding equipment on.
3) A baseball field or vacant ski slope is very accessible. Folks are more likely to get out and train early season.

Practicing Companion Rescue in woodchips ©Angela Hawse

Practicing Companion Rescue in woodchips ©Angela Hawse

That said, there is nothing like the real thing:

1) It is essential that you are skilled in moving over snow with your skis or board on.
2) You must practice in a snowy environment when it comes to moving large volumes of snow in a short amount of time—it’s hard work!
3) Practice. Practice. Practice digging the way we taught when you have some snow to work with.
4) If you are wondering, “What’s the best way to dig?” visit the Silverton Avalanche School website for more avalanche courses and additional all-women’s backcountry winter offerings at http://avyschool.com/project/new-partnership-with-chicks-climbing-and-skiing/.

And, if you’re a backcountry ice climber, check out the Women’s Avalanche Rescue and Safety for Ice Climbers with Kitty Calhoun in January that focuses on the hazards and rescue skills specific to ice climbing.

Best in Snow,

Angela Hawse

How to do an Avalanche Beacon Check in Three Steps

Heading out into the backcountry with friends?  Remember to do your beacon check at the trailhead. There are three things you want to check: Battery life, as well as Transmit and Receive functions of the device.

Follow these three steps to accomplish this quickly and efficiently:

Step 1:
First, pick a leader to run the beacon check.  Have everyone else make a circle around that person.  As each person takes their beacon out of their holster and turns it on, they call out the battery percentage, including the leader. First check done!

Step 2:
Next, everyone in the circle turns their beacon into search mode and holds it in front of them. Only the leader keeps her beacon transmitting.  You’ll hear a lot of beeping as all the searching beacons should pick up a signal.  Now the leader in the center of the circle, approaches one person at a time, bringing her beacon close to the searching beacon.  If everything is working in order, the number displayed on the searching beacon should get really small, and the sound level/frequency should increase.  It’s important to keep a bit of distance between each person as the leader moves around the circle, as well as giving the searching beacon a moment of time to process the signal.

Step 3:
Once this is completed around the circle, everyone except the leader turns their beacon back to send and stows it in their holster or pocket.  The leader now switches her beacon to search, and goes around the circle, pointing her beacon close to where the beacon is stowed, and looking for a signal with a correspondingly small number at each person.  Lastly, the leader turns her beacon back to send, and the group is ready to head out.

Troubleshooting:  What to do if something isn’t working right.

-If a beacon has low battery life or isn’t turning on, install new batteries before heading out.

-If transmit or receiving isn’t working properly, first re-test to eliminate operator error, but a beacon isn’t working, don’t use it.  Check in with a dealer at your local backcountry gear store.

Does this tech tip get you thinking about your beacon skills?
Join us for a Rescue Fundamentals Course to learn about or refresh your companion rescue skills.

Silverton Avalanche School

Earning backcountry turns at the Red Mountain Pass area of the San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Photo Credit: Louis Arevalo

New Partnership with the Silverton Avalanche Schoolchicks with stix logo

Chicks is delighted to announce our new Partnership with the Silverton Avalanche School. Working with SAS allows us to expand our ski and splitboard offerings closer to home and add avalanche education with certification to our all-women’s backcountry courses.  Since we launched into backcountry ski offerings two years ago we’ve shared turns with many of you on Red Mountain Pass and the Opus Hut area, we’ve heli-skied with Telluride Helitrax and ran our first avalanche course with AAI in Jackson. We’ve gone international to Japan and La Grave, France and now we’re really going to get this party started with the Silverton Avalanche School.  We hope you’ll join us for our first season together. 

The Silverton Avalanche School is a non-profit organization that has been in operation since 1962 and educated over 4000 students from beginners to top-level professionals.  They’ve been industry leaders in avalanche education, teaching folks how to recognize avalanche hazards, determine snow stability, organize and carry out rescue operations and become competent backcountry travelers for 55 years. 

Located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains at 9,318 feet in Silverton, Colorado there is no better classroom to learn about avalanches.  The San Juan Mountains have some of the most accessible, active and well-known avalanche paths anywhere with a snowpack world-famous for it’s dynamic qualities.  SAS courses are taught by nationally recognized members of the American Avalanche Association, AIARE and the Canadian Avalanche Association with instructors widely known for their expertise and passion for snow safety and backcountry fun. 

“We are excited to partner up with Chicks Climbing and Skiing to offer women’s specific avalanche and backcountry ski training. This partnership fills a gap that we have seen in avalanche education.  Chicks Climbing and Skiing brings a wealth of guiding and training experience that goes unmatched.  Empowering women to go into the backcountry and avalanche terrain is close to our heart and we are honored to work with Chicks to make this happen.”
Jim Donovan, Director Silverton Avalanche School

It’s a match made on a mountaintop and we can’t wait to take your backcountry skills to the next level with our new partnership. SAS’s female instructors are some of the most experienced, passionate avalanche educators in the country. Combined with our certified IFMGA / AMGA Ski Guides we have the most qualified women in the industry to make your backcountry experience unique, world-class and unforgettable.  As the first and most successful all-women’s climbing program in the country with an 18-year track record, it’s only natural that we expand our mountain sport offerings to include backcountry skiing with a focus on safety and avalanche education. 

Why choose Chicks and the Silverton Avalanche School?

Because we do women’s programs better than anyone else and partnering with the Silverton Avalanche School and their 55-year track record gives you the confidence to know you’re in the best hands, you’ll get top shelf world-class instruction and it’s definitely going to be fun.

Dates for our winter line up of ski, splitboard and avalanche education events will be announced in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for more details including dates, course descriptions, pricing, and registration.  Visit www.avyschool.com to check out the Silverton Avalanche School.