Probing and Digging 101: backcountry safety

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Probing 101

As mentioned in our post on safety equipment for backcountry skiing, knowing how to probe is critical to correctly identify where someone may be buried in case of an avalanche.
There are 2 different approaches to probing, depending if your companion is wearing a transceiver or not:

    1. If your companion is wearing a transceiver, stand right on top of the spot where you got the lowest distance reading and stick the probe around you making concentric circles, first very small right around your boots and then larger until you get a positive strike. When you do, leave the probe in the snow. It will serve as a marker on where to dig no matter what happens next. For more information also read our Transceiver 101 guide
    2. If your companion is not wearing a transceiver, you will need to spot probe: focus around the fall line of where he was last seen, around his equipment on the snow surface, above and below rocks and trees or deposition areas such as depressions, the toe of the avalanche. If you have enough man power, proceed to cover the field with an organized search line starting from the bottom and moving your way up.

Digging 101

Backcountry shovels usually can be mounted both in the traditional shape we use to dig our driveway before going to work in the morning or also as hoes. This second mounting is the best one to use after you get a positive strike with the probe. It allows you to dig much faster by moving the snow behind you while kneeling or standing. If you have anyone around, he can also kneel or stand right behind you and get rid of the snow you are digging in a sort of chain effect.


Backcountry.com is a Utah based company carrying an extensive selection of backcountry safety equipment

You can also easily purchase backcountry probes and shovels on Amazon:




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