–SUBMITTED BY CHARLIE BREAKY

A small but eager group gathered on the second beach at Westwood Lake. Objective? Remind ourselves of what to do if we are in the unfortunate situation of needing to do a companion avalanche rescue. 

The beach is actually an ideal spot for a beacon hunt; it’s easy to bury the beacons without trace (just remember to turn the beacon to transmit and put it in a good waterproof bag before you bury it!!) Whether you’re an “every weekend” ski warrior, or an occasional powder-seeker, you should be practicing your rescue skills at least once a year. You always learn something new.

A couple of things the attendees learned/were reminded of this time:

1. When an avalanche is recognised, get yourself to a safe spot but keep eyes on victims. Make a mental note of the “last seen location”. Your search area will be a downhill triangle starting from a point at that location.

2. “Marking” a found victim in order to concentrate on the signal from another victim can be a very handy tool, but it has severe limitations, especially when victims are buried very close to each other. Marking one signal can actually result in eliminating the other signal, too, as your beacon has a harder time distinguishing the signals. If you mark a victim and then cannot find another signal at all, consider resetting your beacon and NOT using the mark function. Instead, use your signal-strength indicator to see if there may actually be two burials side-by-side or one above the other. Alternatively, dig out one victim and turn their beacon off before resuming the search for another victim (or do this simultaneously if you have multiple rescuers). Knowing the limitations of your specific beacon is important!

Happy trails 🙂