Developing Rescue Skills For Skiers and Winter Mountaineers
The world’s first permanent, artificial avalanche transceiver training facility, specifically designed to help develop the skills of winter mountaineers and ski mountaineers of all abilities, is now open. The facility can be found in the Scottish Highlands at SportScotlands National Outdoor Training Centre, Glenmore Lodge in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. The 500sqm facility provides potential rescuers with an artificial, highly realistic and easily accessible facility that enables would-be rescuers to simulate various avalanche transceiver search scenarios at any time of year and whatever the weather conditions.
Winter mountaineering, and ski mountaineering in particular, are increasingly popular activities in Scotland. Last year alone, the SportScotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) recorded over 329,000 people accessing its online avalanche reports, over a four month operational period, across five key Scottish mountain areas.
An individual’s chances of survival diminish rapidly the longer they are buried in an avalanche; companion rescue therefore forms the focus of a successful recovery. Increasingly, individuals are carrying transceivers which can both transmit and receive a signal on a common frequency. In this way, any members of the party not avalanched become rescuers so groups have a need to be practiced in their use.
Designed by Back Country Access, the avalanche transceiver training park involves four avalanche transceivers (simulating victims) being buried under the deep layer of woodchip that covers the park. Every beacon is connected underground to a central control box where one or more units can be turned on to emit a signal that is picked up by the avalanche transceivers worn by trainee rescuers. Snow shovels and probes are then used as if the rescuers are in a real snow field situation.
Almost all avalanche training facilities operating around the world currently rely on snow to hide the transceivers, restricting the use of such training parks to areas or times of permanent snow cover.
Bob Kinnaird, Principal of SportScotland Glenmore Lodge, said, “In addition to mountain rescue personnel, an increasing number of skiers, winter walkers and mountaineers carry avalanche transceivers to increase their chance of rescue in the event of an avalanche. However, such equipment is only helpful if those involved in a rescue operation know how to detect the signals and how to best plan a rescue. The development of the year-round transceiver training park is an example of an innovative approach to offer accessible and appropriate training opportunities that help outdoor enthusiasts develop their knowledge and skills to safely enjoy our mountains in winter.” For full details of winter skills course – www.glenmorelodge.org.uk. For winter survival kit please click here.