SIS Prevention & Equipment

  1. The easiest was to avoid a SIS accident is to remain on groomed areas and avoid deep snow and tree well areas.
  2. Be aware of the recent snowfall and the depth of the loose snow - check local resources for recent snow conditions.
  3. If you venture into UNGROOMED terrain:
    • Ride or ski with a partner and keep your partner in sight at all times.
    • Ski or ride in control.
    • Give tree wells a wide berth. Look at the open spaces between trees not at the trees.
    • Skiers should remove ski pole straps.
    • Carry safety equipment including:
      • Cell phone with resort emergency number
      • Transceiver / beacon
      • Avalung
      • Whistle
      • Shovel
      • Probe
      • Recco
  4. Keep your partner in sight at all times. In many SIS accidents, skiers and snowboarders, have part of their body or equipment visible - but a partner wasnt there to see them.
  5. Take heart. Increased awareness and education reduces SIS risks. There are more reported cases of skiers and boarders being rescued by their partners each season.

The type of equipment that can help in a SIS accident is readily available and is already being carried by skiers and snowboarders who regularly venture into backcountry/ avalanche terrain and many in-ski area riders.

Avalanche Beacon

Avalanche Beacon This is the most efficient way to locate your partner if they are under the snow surface with nothing visible. It should be noted that most SIS victims DO HAVE some part of their body or a piece of equipment visible from the surface so that a visual search of the victim’s last seen area could yield the quickest find.

It is incredibly difficult to dig someone out if you don’t have a shovel. If you and your partner carry shovels the next step is to learn how to dig efficiently.

The avalanche probe pole rounds out “the avalanche safety equipment trinity. The beacon is used to get close and the probe pole is used to confirm the victim’s exact location. Probe poles can also be used to probe for someone without a beacon but this is very time consuming. Make sure you do a good visual search of the entire area. If this fails, probing individual tree wells may be the next best option.
Using a device like an “Avalung" can extend your survival time under snow.

The RECCO reflector is a small reflector that is may be sewn into a skier or boarders clothing or is on their equipment like a ski boot. This allows them to be found by a RECCO device. This device may be carried by professional rescue services like ski patrols. To be found by this method involves these rescue services being notified and then responding with a RECCO device specialized. To date one SIS fatality has been found in the U.S. with a RECCO device.

The low-tech whistle is making a comeback as more people are realizing how much easier it is to get help and direct people to your location with a whistle rather than by yelling.