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Call me stupid

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
In my never-ending pursuit of ski education, I have a question regarding avalanches and/or backcountry rescue.

I've heard (and assume to be true) that once an avalanche stops moving, the snow sets immediately, and is as hard as ice.

I'm curious of two things:

1. How useful then is an extendable pole in locating victims? If the snow is as hard as ice, how will a pole be able to reach through it?

2. Same question about digging with a shovel...how can a shovel, even pretty heavy duty, dig through ice effectively?

Your responses are thanked in advance...
post #2 of 4
It does set quite hard and feels as hard as ice if you are trapped in it, but you can still probe through it -- it is very dense/packed snow with ice chunks rather than a solid piece of ice.

The shovel issue, however, is legit. You do need a tough blade and the metal ones are best. Some of the plastic shovels designed for backcountry skiing are (in my opinion) not strong enough for a serious avy rescue (e.g., the plastic lifelinks). <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by BT (edited January 25, 2001).]</FONT>
post #3 of 4
That's a myth simple as that. There are many kinds of avalanches, each one consisting of a diferent snow mixture, but the snow is not going to set-up as ice in the short window that you have of rescuing the person trapped below. After 15-30 minutes the chances of survival drop to 50%. After an hour you are mostly doing body recovery.

I think BT is correct that you are maybe confusing the victims interpretation of what the snow feels like. People have died being buried under 1 foot of snow because it is so heavy and imobilizing.

Also, I agree a metal shovel is really the only way to go. Plastic shovels are for making jumps and shovelling your drive way. If you have a metal shovel and your friend has a plastic one offer to trade with him for the day.
post #4 of 4
the snow doesn't really set up "hard as ice"

it is heated by friction and then freezes, the best equivelent is a snowbank formed by a plow

Free your heels, poke your eyes out!
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