Monday, October 12, 2015

Advanced Review: Micro Search Box and Micro Search Strips

This past weekend, I attended the Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Breckenridge, Colorado. Among the many excellent presentations at the CSAW, Pascal Haegli presented his research on avalanche airbags which clearly shows the performance of airbags in avalanches. A summary of this research can be found on our blog here. 

While in Colorado, I had the opportunity to spend a day training with Loveland Ski Patrol and Powder Addiction Snowcats who use fleets of PULSE beacons. We reviewed advanced rescue techniques including: How to Build a Mental Map, Micro Search-Box, and Micro-Search Strip.

For all of us, this day was a excellent opportunity to brush up on our beacon skills--especially the skills that are required to solve even the most complicated searches. We have covered these topics in past blog posts (Tips for Advanced Rescuer and Creating a Mental Map). Be sure to revisit these posts to review these skills as well as many other helpful hints for advanced users.

For advanced users, Mammut has taught for many years that the best way to solve 100% of multiple burial situations--searches that may suffer from overlapping beacon signals--involves using digital and analog signals at the same time. This allows the searcher to build a mental map that clearly shows when signals are being hidden by overlap.

When signal overlap is identified, it is best to revert to ANALOG ONLY and use one of two backup strategies depending on the spacing of the buried subjects (which is determined during you TONE CHECKS). If you are struggling with a close proximity situation, the Micro Search Box is the appropriate backup strategy. When victims or more evenly spaced (more than 3 meters apart) the Micro-Search Strip" is the appropriate backup strategy.

John Gibbons, of Powder Addiction Snowcats, made me aware of this video of Manuel Genswein demonstrating the very efficient and thorough "Micro-Search Strip."   So, if you are brushing up on your beacon skills--which many of us are around now--be sure to watch this great video of Manuel.

If you still have questions after you watch the video, do not hesitate to contact us at

Friday, October 9, 2015

Avalanche Airbags - A Study Points Out Efficiency

Photo by Jeremy Bernard.
Under the management of the renowned Canadian avalanche researcher Pascal Haegli, a study on the effectiveness of the avalanche airbag has recently been published. The study shows: an avalanche airbag halves the likelihood of death in an avalanche.

To date, a number of independent studies exist on the subject of "Effectiveness of avalanche airbags". Due to their advanced age and limited number of random samples, however, it was time to have a look at their effectiveness at the current state of the art.

"Professionals had a lower wrong trigger rate."

The study was based on avalanche accident reports from Canada, the USA, Switzerland, France, Norway and Slovakia. Only such cases where the injured persons were involved in the avalanche itself (i.e. had been carried along in the avalanche) were considered and could actually have been buried under the avalanche (avalanches size 2 or larger). Furthermore, the examination of effectiveness only considered accidents where both airbag carriers and persons without an airbag were involved. 

Results On Effectiveness 

The result of the study shows that the avalanche airbag halves the risk of death in an avalanche (from 22.2% without airbag to 11.1% with an airbag). This means that 22 out of 100 victims without an avalanche airbag would die, and 78 would survive. If all of these 100 persons were wearing an airbag, 11 of these 22 persons could be saved. 

Results of Un-inflated Airbags

Further examinations showed that approximately 20% of the airbags used could not be inflated. Out of these 20%, 78% of the cases were due to user error. Usually, the airbag could not be triggered because the trigger handle could not be pulled or the pressure cartridge was not inserted properly. Professionals such as mountain guides, in contrast, had a lower wrong trigger rate. This proves that practice with the avalanche airbag influences behavior in case of avalanche positively.

When using an avalanche airbag, you need to familiarize yourself with it to ensure that it will work reliably in a serious situation. Training triggering should be performed every season. On tours, think consciously about which hand you could use to trigger it and how quickly you can reach the grip. In addition to use, conscientious maintenance of the avalanche airbags is required as well. The user manual and the training videos must be observed.


Even if the statements of statistic evaluations always must be considered somewhat critically, the survey of Pascal Haegeli is probably the closest possible thing to reality. The avalanche airbag can save lives, but its use must be practiced in order to be able to react properly when an accident occurs. 

Written by Michael Vollmer
Mammut Product Manager- Avalanche Airbags

Haegeli P, et al. The effectiveness of avalanche airbags. Resuscitation (2014)
Bergundsteigen 02/2014: Die Wirksamkeit des Lawinenairbags. P. Haegeli

Further photos: Robert Boesch

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mammut Attends Snow and Avalanche Workshops

This Autumn, Mammut will be attending and supporting many regional Snow and Avalanche Workshops. These workshops are a continuing education opportunity for both recreational and professional backcountry traveler's and a chance to network within your backcountry community.

Regional Snow and Avalanche Workshops have gained a great deal of momentum in the last few years. Topics vary from summaries of cutting edge snow science to more practical discussions on human factor, terrain selection, weather, stability tests, and technological innovations.

Below is a list of the SAW events that Mammut will be attending (click on event for registration information). Please feel free to stop by at one of the breaks and check out our current snow safety products.

Mammut is also available this Autumn to train your ski patrol or guide service in advanced avalanche transceiver techniques. For these services please contact us at

October 9        Colorado SAW (Breckenridge)
October 10      Professional PULSE workshop (Breckenridge)
October 17      California SAW (Tahoe)
October 17      Northern Rockies SAW (Whitefish, Montana)
November 7    Wyoming SAW (Jackson)
November 8    Northwest SAW  (Seattle)
November 11  Bozeman SAW

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teton County SAR Fundraiser

Mammut Ambassador Todd Offenbacher--Tahoe Adventure Film Fest (TAFF) founder, Ski Guide and Television Host for Outside Television--is bringing his film festival to Jackson Hole.

In conjunction with Teton County Search and Rescue and The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, TAFF will present ten short films from several different mountain sport genres

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 2015 UPDATE: Service Bulletin for Mammut and Snowpulse Avalanche Airbags

In March of 2014 Mammut issued a service bulletin for certain models of avalanche airbags--this is new information that may affect your airbag whether or not yours was included in the previous service bulletin.  In certain rare cases Mammut discovered that the metal tube connecting the trigger mechanism to the airbag itself could come unscrewed--this is easily identifiable and should be a part of everyone's routine equipment check every time they use their airbag.  For the model-year 2014/2015 a manufacturing change prevents this from happening.  Now, Mammut has produced a special custom-fitted clip that is specifically designed to prevent any of the pre-2014 model-year airbags from ever coming unscrewed.  The clips are small and very lightweight, and are easy to snap into place yourself on all affected airbag models and are available free of charge at the link below. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Evolution of the Avalanche Forecast: Problems, Likelihood, Consequence

The definition of risk is often described in terms of chance or probability. In the world of avalanche forecasts, avalanche hazard has often been hamstrung by this definition. An example of this problem is often seen during periods of deep slab or persistent problems, when the low likelihood of a major event--despite the severe consequences of such an event--warrants merely a moderate hazard rating. A fatal example of this occurred on December 26, 2013, when a rider triggered a deep slab on Jackson Hole's "Pucker Face" that subsequently killed him.

In 2005-06, building on Roger Atkins 2004 ISSW paper, the Utah Avalanche Center pioneered incorporating "Avalanche Problems" into their avalanche advisories. This system has since been widely adopted throughout North America. The UAC's platform can be found HERE. We blogged about the use of this format in Canada HERE. An example from the Crested Butte Avalanche Center can be found HERE.

Taking this one step further--essentially combining likelihood and consequence to say, "so what?"-- Drew Hardesty and the forecasters at the Utah Avalanche Center have developed an additional component in their daily forecasts. In this new platform, the given hazard rating will be accompanied with a Travel Precaution Advisory.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mammut offers 30% discount on level-1 avy courses

We hope this holiday season Mammut can bring cheer to your home.  However, rather than simply outfitting you we would like to give a gift that keeps on giving:  education.  Mammut is partnering with four guide services across the US to offer skiers and riders a 30% discount on the cost of a Level-1 avalanche safety course when you purchase a Mammut airbag or beacon.  All Mammut avalanche airbags and avalanche beacons come with a "test and feel voucher" which is redeemable for the course discount at one of these participating providers
Click here to see a list of participating course providers

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PULSE Barryvox Tips for the Advanced Rescuer

Different backcountry users need different skills. A weekend warrior doing laps in familiar terrain in a familiar snowpack needs a different skill-set than the skier who does a destination backcountry trip each season to a unfamiliar hut in a remote region. Similarly the professional user has different needs than the recreational user. From ISSW to the many regional snow and avalanche workshops around the United States this season, there has been considerable chatter about the difficulties that avalanche educators have teaching the many different beacons currently on the market.

In an effort to address different user needs, AIRIE and the American Avalanche Institute have begun to develop curriculums specifically for recreational versus professional users.
Keep in mind, many “recreational users” spend so much time in the backcountry that they may fall into the “professional user” group—people who are out frequently and devoted to being masters of their craft.

From an avalanche transceiver development perspective, Mammut has recognized different user needs for a long time, which is why we offer the ELEMENT for recreational users and the PULSE with both basic and advanced user-profiles for ambitious or advanced users.

Below, we will review some of the PULSE Barryvox’s features which cater to advanced rescuers. Details of these functions can be found in the PULSE USER MANUAL. Many of these features are also very useful for recreational users that are willing to spend a little more time mastering their beacon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Updated Beacon information for fleet owners: Application Safety Guide

The Application Safety Guide contains specific information mainly for professional users and fleet managers.  We recommend any fleet managers and professional users print off a copy for their reference.  Mammut publishes this information as an aid to developing protocols and procedures for professional organizations that will aid in the trouble-free usage of Barryvox avalanche beacons and maximize the safety of users. 

The updated Application Safety Guide is available on Mammut's website now: Link to Application Safety Guide. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Effect of Consumer Electronics on Avalanche Beacons

Mammut's Ilari Dammert Presents Poster at ISSW 2014

In the past few years, there has been a growing concern in the avalanche rescue community that consumer electronics interfere with avalanche transceivers ability to function properly. We have always known that metal objects like shovel blades or even foil wrappers can create electrical interference, but today just about every backcountry traveller is equipt with GO PROs, iPhones, VHF radios and other high frequency gadgets.

In an effort to further our understanding of this important topic, Ilari Dammert (Mammut Electronics Product Manager) and Erwin Meister (Project Manager CCS Adaxys) teamed up to explore the issue.