Searching an Avalanche

Despite your best efforts, an avalanche has occurred. You've established leadership, ensured the scene is safe, and considered calling for help. Now it's time to begin the search.

Searching involves looking for visual clues, using your avalanche transceiver, and probing.

Looking for visual clues on the surface of the avalanche is a continuation of gathering information and is component of the search—it must not be overlooked. Visual clues might include gloves, skis, etc. If you do discover a glove, ski, or pole, check to see if it is connected to a victim. There are many examples, including avalanches that I have responded to, where gear on the snow surface was still connected to the victim. In addition to looking for clues during these first few minutes, you should be on the lookout for clues throughout the transceiver search.

After finding a clue, announce it loudly so your fellow rescuers know about it ("I found a red ski pole!"). If the clue is a ski or pole, stand it up vertically so others can see it. If you find smaller clues, like a glove, and you are carrying flags (an item often carried by professional rescuers), put a flag next to the clue. And don't stand up or leave rescuer gear on the avalanche debris that might be mistaken for a clue.

If you have plenty of rescuers, one person can be assigned the task of looking for clues while others begin the transceiver search. If you have limited resources, you should look for clues while you are searching with your avalanche transceiver.