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Old 22.12.2008, 12:50
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Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

Hello there!

Hearing about all these avalanches in the newspapers all the time has made me start thinking to buy some protection.

I'm used to snowboarding in Canada, where there is a huge amount of off-piste which is avalanche controlled, meaning you don't need any protection once you stay within the bounded areas.

I've been snowboarding mostly in verbier and almost never ride on piste, theres tonnes of great off-piste relatively close to lifts there etc.. I'm not talking about hiking for hours to really deserted areas, but you know like small little hikes (15-30 minutes) or just big traverses to get some fresh lines.

For this kind of off-piste riding should I really be more carefull in carrying a receiver and shovel even? I see other people wearing them, and seen there was an avy this weekend with two teenages, and you can see the drag lift literally just behind where the slide was set-off, so they were'nt exactly in the backcountry!

Cheers for any help (any any tips of where to get cheap avy receivers)
Alan
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Old 22.12.2008, 13:54
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

A transceiver is not protection. It does not stop you from releasing or getting caught in an avalanche and it can not stop you from getting killed in an avalanche.

What it can do is assist your companions find you if they too are carrying the correct equipment. The survival rate of avalanche victims drops very quickly after 15 minutes. The idea of a transceiver is that the people who are with you (if they have transceivers and know how to use them) can locate you and dig you out quickly enough to give you a chance at survival. The transceiver is useless if without knowing how to use it and having shovels and probes to dig someone out after they have been located.

I have a Pieps DSP, which I have found quite easy to use in pretend situations, fortunatley I have never (and hopefully never will) had to use it in a real situation.

The best thing to do is take an avalanche course from the local guides. The proper backcountry equipment is expensive, but worth it if it saves your life. Read as much as you can and reduce the risk of releasing or getting cauight in an avalanche in the first place. I can highly recomend the book "The Powder Guide" its available in english and contains most of the information from the avalanch bible. "3x3" by Werner Munter.
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Old 22.12.2008, 13:56
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

Oh.. as for in areas avalanches.

Last year there was at least two incidents where I know of where an avalanche fatality occurred right next to or on the piste. In both cases the avalanche crossed the piste. One of them was a child who got killed when riding beside the piste in Davos, the other was someone on the piste got killed by an avalanche somewhere in Wallis.
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Old 22.12.2008, 13:59
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

You might want to try the ultimate in posy-ware for off-piste - the air bag...
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Old 22.12.2008, 14:10
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

you can find tons of information here http://www.slf.ch/english_EN it also contains news on Avalanche risk http://www.slf.ch/lawineninfo/index_EN

My guess is that it really depends where exactly you are ...it doesn't matter if it is a "small little hikes" what is more important is what day it is, inclination, how much new snow there is, wind? etc.

I guess some sort of experience (know-how how to assess the situation) + maybe an LVS is never out of place if one is off-piste.

The SAC and for example private companies such as www.bergpunkt.ch offer courses.

I hope this helps
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Old 22.12.2008, 14:30
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

Cheers for the replies.

Hah yes, I know roughly how to use the devices, and yes obviously its not much use if you're by yourself

I think we will go ahead and get a couple of them and some shovels and probes. Its right they are bloody expensive, but like we have said, worth it to save your life.

And probably we will take a one day course in the near future.

Its incredible how many avalanches there are over here, every monday reading the papers going to work its just jaw dropping hearing all the stories!

Safe riding!
Alan
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Old 22.12.2008, 14:43
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

One of the reasons that there are so many avalanches here is that we are a long way from the ocean. There is no salt in the precipitation which doesn't do much for the ability of the snow to bind and make stable layers. Add that to the fact that its often windy when its snowing, which gives some unstable areas in the snow pack too. Even if you follow the "rules" its possible to get caught up in a slide. I've seen accidents happen in places where other things suggest it should be safe.

An example last weekend. Snowshoer killed on a 30deg SE facing slope in avalanche warning level 3. In many cases you would consider this to be ridable! I believe there were also some fatalities this weekend.

There are no guarantees, and if you go in the back country you just need to try to be as informed and take as many precautions a possible.

Personally I just like to be out there and have no desire to go riding 40+deg slopes or anything like that.
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Old 22.12.2008, 16:44
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

Ciao.

There are usually stores at the resorts where you can hire the gear for the day or longer - backpack, Pieps, shovel and probe - so no need to buy. Or start small and buy some bits and hire the rest. Like everyone else says, the main thing is to carry all the gear and know how to use it.

We have our own backpacks but at Verbier, hired all the other gear at Mountain Air but you can hire whatever you need in lots of places there.

Remember that it may not be your life that needs saving but you could make the difference to someone else!

SS
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Old 22.12.2008, 16:54
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

If you have any visitors coming from the States, you can get some better deals on this gear there. Here is a complete package (pack, shovel, probe and transceiver) for $528.95 USD.

http://www.backcountry.com/store/MAM...5-Package.html

SLF also has a good CD-ROM titled "White Risk" that will give you a good overview of risk prevention. This combined with an actual course would be ideal.

p.s. There have already been a few in-bounds slides in the States this season with fatalities and/or serious injury. Ski Patrol does a good job in general but there are many areas that can be missed and one should assume that they have not done any control work. Stay Safe!
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Old 22.12.2008, 17:24
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

Lot's of good advice here.

A device, probe, shovel as well as rescue "know-how" (Not always a simple affair and often involving extensive first aid) along with the ability to assess avalanche terrain and risk of burial are all essential in areas outside of "the ropes." I don't believe you can ever really "control the backcountry" even though it can be bombed to prevent predictable slides, etc.

Conditions in the mountains are ever-variable and constantly in a state of metamorphisis. The only one who can accurately assess the situation is you, so your safety rests absolutely in your own hands, as well as in those of your ski partners if you are skiing without a guide.

Enjoying the backcountry is a beautifully glorious thing, but unfortunately becomes very deadly when skill and prudent decision making are left out of the process.

Don't become a statistic. Get educated. Get the gear. Practice w/it. Have fun!
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Old 22.12.2008, 17:25
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

I have the Pulse Barryvox from Mammut. Dead simple to use (what you want if you really have to use it). I don't have time at the moment to check but I seem to remember reading that the North American settings (frequency) is different from Europe.

You might want to check before buying an American receiver to be sure you can switch the frequency (if my memory is correct) so it works here. Would be a shame to buy something to find out that it won't work here.

And I will join the others in saying "get/rent the gear" and take a short course and if you are someplace like Verbier, do some training on your own in the park they have set up.

Life is already too short. Don't be stupid like the guy that they still have not found at Les Diablerets from a couple of weeks ago.
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Old 22.12.2008, 17:35
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

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I have the Pulse Barryvox from Mammut. Dead simple to use (what you want if you really have to use it). I don't have time at the moment to check but I seem to remember reading that the North American settings (frequency) is different from Europe.

You might want to check before buying an American receiver to be sure you can switch the frequency (if my memory is correct) so it works here. Would be a shame to buy something to find out that it won't work here.

And I will join the others in saying "get/rent the gear" and take a short course and if you are someplace like Verbier, do some training on your own in the park they have set up.

Life is already too short. Don't be stupid like the guy that they still have not found at Les Diablerets from a couple of weeks ago.
I remember being in a discussion once where someone questioned the ethics of the Barryvox you described. Essentially their argument (and one supposedly held out by some guides), is that the ability for the device to be programmed with the owners information can alter the normal assessment of an avalanche situation. Essentially, someone may stop looking for another casualty in favour of just finding the one they are closest to.

At first, I was totally of the no way opinion, but their arguments were at least semi interesting. I'm not sure how many guides have this opinion, and I have seen guides using this device themselves so it might have just been a topic someone chose to debate.... But an interesting one all the same.
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Old 22.12.2008, 17:44
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

i have 2 shovels and a probe for sale, open to offers on price. Did have transceivers too when we upgraded last year to the mammut barryvox mentioned (possibly the best for multiple burials) but they've been sold.

doesn't Verbier have a site where you can practice searching?If not there will be one somewhere nearby. i know flumserberg and Pischa local to here do. My hubby made me search for my last birthday presents with a transceiver too!
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Old 22.12.2008, 20:28
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

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I have the Pulse Barryvox from Mammut. Dead simple to use (what you want if you really have to use it). I don't have time at the moment to check but I seem to remember reading that the North American settings (frequency) is different from Europe.

You might want to check before buying an American receiver to be sure you can switch the frequency (if my memory is correct) so it works here. Would be a shame to buy something to find out that it won't work here.
No problem with the North American transceivers here. I have a Mammut Barryvox which I bought a few years ago in California. It works fine here. Several years ago (ten+?) there was not a standard frequency but that has been changed and the new international standard is 457 kHz. Just make sure you don't buy an old one that doesn't operate at this frequency.
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Old 22.12.2008, 22:39
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

Hey everyone, by the looks of it we've got a fair number of experienced backcountry skiers here. I'd say those who are interested in an outing of some type should say so, and perhaps we could rendezvous somewhere for a ski tour after the new year.

Any takers? I'd be up for it!
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Old 22.12.2008, 22:44
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

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I have the Pulse Barryvox from Mammut. Dead simple to use (what you want if you really have to use it). I don't have time at the moment to check but I seem to remember reading that the North American settings (frequency) is different from Europe.

You might want to check before buying an American receiver to be sure you can switch the frequency (if my memory is correct) so it works here. Would be a shame to buy something to find out that it won't work here.
After doing some research on a feature of the Pulse Barryvox that Eire alluded to, you are correct regarding a different frequency used between North America and Europe. It is not the main send/receive frequency of the unit but a separate frequency used for two Pulse units to relay certain information like presence of heartbeat or a user id. Here's a link:

http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/shefftz.htm

and a quote from that page:

"The Pulse has a separate “W-Link” frequency that allows Pulse units to communicate additional information with each other. Europe and North America have different W-Link frequencies, and in Asia use of either frequency is prohibited. (See map in user manual for geographical details.) Pulse units purchased in Europe can be switched by the user to operate on the North American frequency. Pulse units purchased in North America must be modified by a Barryvox service center to operate on the European frequency, but then after this modification, such a unit can then be switched back and forth by the user in the future. Any Pulse unit purchased anywhere can have its W-Link frequency switched off by the user for operation in Asia."

So, to avoid the hassle of sending the unit in to be modified, buy the unit here in Europe. Here's a good store where you may be able to save a few Francs: http://www.sport-conrad.com/index.as...orie&kat_id=35
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Old 22.12.2008, 22:59
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

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After doing some research on a feature of the Pulse Barryvox that Eire alluded to, you are correct regarding a different frequency used between North America and Europe. It is not the main send/receive frequency of the unit but a separate frequency used for two Pulse units to relay certain information like presence of heartbeat or a user id. Here's a link:

http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/shefftz.htm

and a quote from that page:

"The Pulse has a separate “W-Link” frequency that allows Pulse units to communicate additional information with each other. Europe and North America have different W-Link frequencies, and in Asia use of either frequency is prohibited. (See map in user manual for geographical details.) Pulse units purchased in Europe can be switched by the user to operate on the North American frequency. Pulse units purchased in North America must be modified by a Barryvox service center to operate on the European frequency, but then after this modification, such a unit can then be switched back and forth by the user in the future. Any Pulse unit purchased anywhere can have its W-Link frequency switched off by the user for operation in Asia."

So, to avoid the hassle of sending the unit in to be modified, buy the unit here in Europe. Here's a good store where you may be able to save a few Francs: http://www.sport-conrad.com/index.as...orie&kat_id=35
Thanks for the link. I see it gets at the moral point I was talking about earlier.

Having read quickly through I was impressed with how the Pieps DSP comes out. I've recently had mine upgraded to the newer firmware but have yet to practice a search with it.
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Old 23.12.2008, 10:57
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

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Hello there!

Hearing about all these avalanches in the newspapers all the time has made me start thinking to buy some protection.

I'm used to snowboarding in Canada, where there is a huge amount of off-piste which is avalanche controlled, meaning you don't need any protection once you stay within the bounded areas.

I've been snowboarding mostly in verbier and almost never ride on piste, theres tonnes of great off-piste relatively close to lifts there etc.. I'm not talking about hiking for hours to really deserted areas, but you know like small little hikes (15-30 minutes) or just big traverses to get some fresh lines.
...
The alps have a unique situation being a natural barrier to weather fronts, unlike the vast expanses in north America. This also means that weather conditions can be quite extreme as far as precipitation intensity, snow dryness, temp excursions, all factors which will significantly affect avalanche conditions. I used to snowboard myself back in '85 (yes 1985...) - 1995. That kind of climate and snowfall quality has dramatically changed. My buddies who still 'board are very wary of those 10 minute quickies ... it's incredible what can happen even just 10 meters from the roped off area. And if it's roped off, it's usually for a good reason. I'll add that especially traverses seem to be the cause of avalanches, as the long straight track seems to help the unstable snowmass to tear away.

I was snowboarding once in Celerina and had stopped just off the regular slope when one of those avalanche mines went off somewhere. I'll never forget the sinking sensation of feeling the whole snow mass move under the board. Luckily it was close to the trees so the movement did not develop into something else. Had I been somewhere else - who knows?

Last but not least I'd study what the legal implications of triggering an avalanche which causes damage to property or lives. I have the feeling that individuals, resorts and townships are much more aggressive now in punishing these kind of incidents (if the guilty part is still alive, that is). And I have heard that slope policing is now actively going after those who intentionally are skiing / 'boarding off the regular slopes. This apparently has to do with the contractual conditions that engage you to the slope operator when you buy your day ticket.

Having said all of this - all of this white stuff on the hills here in Ticino is making me itch for a - safe - day of powdery freeriding....

Paul
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Old 27.12.2008, 10:50
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Re: Off Piste - Avalanche Receiver needed?

Santa delivered "die Schoensten Freeride-touren in der Schweizer Alpen" for Chrissie.

It's full of great lift assisted off piste itineraries.

Now if only he'd do something about the wind. Off piste at lenzerheide the other day was somewhat challenging.
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