The History And Importance Of Avalanche Transceivers

The History And Importance Of Avalanche Transceivers

As skiers and snowboarders, we encounter a huge variety of snow conditions and terrain on the hill. Such as groomed runs, firm chop, soft chop, moguls, trees, and many more. But without a doubt, the most sought-after skiing and boarding condition is fresh powder. If you have ever been to a ski resort on a powder day, you know firsthand how big the lift lines are, and how quickly all the fresh snow gets tracked out. Many people reduce their chances of ever seeing any tracks in their ski runs by participating in ski touring. Ski touring is a subcategory of skiing where you use your own power to get up any hill or mountain you desire to ski. If you plan on touring you will need touring skis (or a split board), touring bindings, touring boots, and skins. But more importantly, due to the extreme dangers of backcountry skiing, you will also need safety equipment such as a probe, a shovel, and an avalanche transceiver. 

When skiing in the backcountry, setting off an avalanche and getting trapped in it is a possibility. If you get caught in one, the only way your group could find your location in the avalanche is if everyone had a transceiver. A study showed that when transceivers are properly used, your chances of dying in an avalanche are reduced by 28.5%. (This does not include any factors such as avalanche training, fatal injuries, and many others.)

In 1968, a man by the name of Dr. John Lawton created the first avalanche transceiver in the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory based in Buffalo, New York. His invention was later sold in 1971 under the brand name “Skadi”. The first transceiver that ever reached our current industry standard for radio wave frequency, was produced by Ikar. This transceiver worked at a frequency of 457kHz. (The current standards consist of 200 hours of transmitting a signal at 10 degrees celsius, 1 hour of receiving the signal at -10 degrees celsius, and being operational from -20 degrees celsius to 40 degrees celsius.) The first-ever digital transceiver was released in 1997 by a well-known brand named Backcountry Access under the name “Tracker”. This transceiver quickly became the most used transceiver in North America. Many people still use this line of transceiver, and it is still sold at Sundance!

When a group of skiers or snowboarders go on a backcountry trip, each person will turn on their transceivers to send. This will assure each person is sending out a signal at all times. If anyone falls victim to an avalanche during the trip, each person who can look for them will switch their transceiver to search. Once they have done this, their transceiver will pick up the frequency of the victim’s transceiver and they will be given their location so they can locate the victim and start the rescue process. 

If you are interested in getting into backcountry skiing or snowboarding, I strongly advise you to get an avalanche transceiver. It could save your life.