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 (link)

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 (link) and Creating a Mental Map (link)). 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.  The analog tones and tone-checks as described in the links above are the tool used to positively identify when the digital marking capability of the beacon has failed due to signal overlap.

When signal overlap is identified, it is best to revert to ANALOG ONLY and use one of two backup, or alternate search strategies, depending on the spacing of the buried subjects (which is determined during your TONE CHECKS). All digital beacons require the use of a similar alternate search strategy to deal with this situation. With a Pulse Barryvox, if you are struggling with a close proximity situation, the Micro Search Box is the appropriate backup strategy. When victims are more widely spaced (more than 3 meters apart) the Micro-Search Strip is the most appropriate strategy.

John Gibbons, of Powder Addiction Snowcats, made me aware of this video (link) of Manuel Genswein demonstrating, as well as this video showing "Micro-Search Strip and micro box."   So, if you are brushing up on your beacon skills--which many of us are around now--be sure to watch these videos.

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