Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Pre Season Safety Check

Temperatures are dropping and snow is starting to fall in the hills-- it is time to start checking your safety equipment to make sure things are in proper working order. So, let's remind ourselves what we should be looking for when we take our avalanche safety equipment out of storage.


  • A general inspection should be performed on all beacons. Hopefully the batteries were removed at the end of the season. When putting new batteries in, make sure there is no alkaline battery corrosion, which will present as a white, powdery substance.

Alkaline corrosion can be very dangerous. Even if the beacon appears to be performing adequately, any piece of electronics that has alkaline corrosion on the battery terminals is suspect and should be returned to the manufacturer for inspection. Do not simply brush the terminals off and ignore. The electronics could be damaged and may not be reliable.

Remember, alkaline batteries have a tendency to swell and explode. Only use high quality Duracell Batteries. We like the Pro Cell and the Quantum. Avoid generic batteries, never use rechargeable batteries, and if you want to avoid the risk of alkaline corrosion altogether, use LITHIUM batteries (PULSE and Barryvox S only). Read more about batteries and best practices here.

  • Next, inspect the housing of the beacon. Make sure the screen is intact, the switch is in proper working order. Turn it on, watch the beacon perform its' Self-Check. Once completed it will read "Self Check OK".
  • Check the Firmware. Mammut regularly updates beacon FW in order to continually improve the platform. For 2019/20 Barryvox and Barryvox S users should be on BarryHeart 3.2 Firmware
  • Mammut recommends Diagnostic Testing every 3 years. If you go to the Maintenance tab under settings, you can see when your next Test is due. Ideally, this is performed in the off season, so it is not too late if your unit is due. Diagnostic Testing is the best way to ensure that your beacon is is proper working order. If you do not have access to Diagnostic Testing...
  • Use Group Check. 
  • When done properly Group Check acts as a Range Check as well. Group Check Tech Tips
  • If you have a Barryvox S, you can utilize Pro Check to ensure that other units are operating within the international norms regarding Frequency, Pulse, and Period. Pro Check Tech Tips
  • If you are working with older units that do not have Group Check, or Pro Check, use standard Function and Range Checks to test for abnormalities.


Airbags typically do not get deployed frequently, so in theory there is little that can go wrong. Nonetheless, use this down time before your season is in swing to inspect your equipment. Your general inspection should include:

  • Check you canisters' pressure. The arrow on the pressure gauge should be in the green. 
  • Remove the canister and DRY FIRE your system. Find your Trigger Tool. This tool is used to perform a "dry-fire" of your trigger system (without canister attached) so that you can ensure that your airbag is in proper working order. Screw the Trigger Tool into the venturi (where the canister goes) and pull the trigger. You should here a fairly loud CLICK. You know know the trigger mechanism is in working order.
  • Inspect the connection point between the balloon and the venturi. Instructions Here
  • Inspect the Trigger Cable is installed properly. Instructions Here.
  • Once these checks have been completed, we recommend that you deploy your airbag once a year, so if you have a filling station nearby, go ahead and get this out of the way for the season. This will also give you an opportunity to practice re-packing the balloon.


Shovels and Probes require very little maintenance, but go ahead and take the time to deploy both to make sure they are working properly.


  1. Tested my snowpulse airbag while passing through Whistler this summer. Bought it second hand a few years back and this was the first time it has ever been tested/deployed due to lack of refill services in Northern BC. Comforting to know: A, it workd and B, it will work if called upon.

    1. Dont forget to check snowmachine shops for refill service. You can find a lot of refill locations at
      Also, if it's something you use frequently you can look into a Hill brand high pressure air pump--it's cheaper than the battery on a fan pack that needs to get replaced every couple years and allows you to fill yourself. info at

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