Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“Avalanche kills professional skier”

The above headline has been on heavy rotation in our local media the last few days. The victim was a professional “extreme sport” athlete, cliff-jump world record holder and Warren Miller film star. He was a seasoned, trained, professional athlete. This fatal accident is a tragic reminder of how potentially dangerous backcountry skiing, and side-country skiing at resorts can be.

Avalanches claim an average of 25 lives each year in the United States. No backcountry traveler should head out without the proper training AND safety gear.

Get the Training…

Your first step: brush up on the basics; attend a credited avalanche safety course affiliated with the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (www.

Carry the Right Gear...

Carrying the proper gear is essential for safe, responsible backcountry travel. Used properly, these tools can help you forecast stability in the snowpack, or rescue those who become victims of an avalanche. Remember, there is often no time to go get help, therefore, the responsibility for rescue falls upon the touring party itself. The following is a list of recommended gear for the backcountry traveler:

Must Have Snow Safety Gear:

Avalanche Beacon: Avalanche beacons (also called transceivers) have proven to be the only reliable way to find a buried victim in time to save their life. Each person should wear a transmitting beacon. Beacons are meant to be worn UNDER your jacket, never in your pack. If someone is buried, the surviving members turn their beacons to receive allowing them to quickly find the buried victim. Several brands of avalanche beacons are available, and all work on the same frequency. The technologies vary from analog to 100% digital, with some operating in both digital and analog. Each brand and technology (digital or analog) has its pros and cons, so research is recommended before making a purchase. More importantly, it is essential that you practice regularly with your beacon.

Avalanche Probe: Your avalanche beacon will help you pin-point the location of your buried victim; digging in dense avalanche debris is time-consuming, so an exact depth or location is vital. This is where probes come in. Probes come in lengths of 182cm for recreational users and up to 300cm for avy pro’s, with 240cm being a popular recreational length. Built of aluminum or carbon tubing, probe assemblies use a screw lock or quick clamp to secure the sections into place. Probe assembly is like tent poles, toss the sections out on the ground and shake the pole sections while pulling the tension cable at the top and locking. As with your beacon…. practice, practice, practice!

Avalanche Shovel: Every member of your group should carry a metal blade shovel, to both dig out a buried victim (avalanche debris is dense and hard) and in digging snow pits to assess the snowpack’s stability. Most avy shovels are constructed from lightweight materials such as aluminum or a high strength plastic. Many feature flat serrated blades and telescoping handles with nesting snow saws. These features are ideal for moving large volumes of snow, cutting through dense hard pack, and making clean cuts for a snow pit.

Backpack: A lightweight, comfortable pack is essential for carrying your backcountry gear. Daypacks are available to carry just the basics like your shovel and probes, while multiday packs are designed to carry larger volumes of gear. Good quality packs will have a waist and sternum strap to keep the load stable and secure. Hydration packs offer the bonus of preventing dehydration which can lead to mental impairment and hypothermia.

Snow Study Equipment

Slope Meter: Most people misjudge slope angles; a precise angle measurement can spell the difference between disaster and FUN. The steepness of a slope is critical in determining whether a certain slope will slide. Determining slope angles is one of the most basic and crucial skills in avalanche assessment. A slope meter is a must for people who are just learning to judge slope angles as well as the pro who needs to regularly confirm slope angles.

Snow Saw: Snow pit tests are essential in determining slope snowpack stability. Snow saws allow you to easily and quickly isolate columns when doing snow profiles. Most Snow saws have an aggressive tooth pattern for managing even the hardest snow, and making them an essential tool for shelter building as well. Several models of snow saws are available, including those that fold or collapse, as well as models which nest inside your shovels handle.

Snow Study Kit: To understand snow conditions and assess avalanche risk, backcountry travelers need to take the time to evaluate the snowpack. Snow study kits provide the “trained” backcountry traveler the necessary tools to help make those assessments. These kits typically contain a slope meter, thermometer, snow crystal card, magnifier, ruler and carry-all pouch.

Check out our selection of quality Snow safety Gear and survival information at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#1 Killer in the outdoors: EXPOSURE!! (Cold Related)

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

In our English lexicon the term Exposure is a catch all phrase used in the description of cold or heat related illness, these includes hypothermia, hyperthermia and other environmental related conditions. The human body is a delicate organism, in order for our continued survival we must maintain a core temperature of around 98.6F, deviation in either direction can have devastating effects. Therefore the ability to regulate that core temperature is vital, thus exposure is the #1 killer of humans caught unprepared in the outdoors.

The following is a generalized presentation of how cold related conditions can kill you.

Mild Hypothermia

Core Temp.
99 - 97F -Normal temperature range, metabolic rate increases shivering may begin.

97 - 95F -Goose bumps and cold sensation. Unable to think or problem solve. Confusion sets in. Loss of dexterity. Shivering may be mild to severe. Skin appears pale and cool to the touch.

Moderate Hypothermia

95 - 93F -Violent shivering in waves. Apparent poor Co-ordination, stumbling. Apathy and confusion. Fatigue. Unable to walk 30-ft. straight line (best field test for early Hypothermia). Difficulty in touching pinky finger to thumb.

93 - 90F -Impaired fine motor coordination. Violent shivering, difficulty walking. Slurred speech and possible hallucinations. Lethargic.

Severe Hypothermia

86 - 90F -Shivering stops, consciousness clouded, unable to walk, exposed skin takes on blue hue, blood pressure drops.

78 - 86F -Continued progressive physical and mental deterioration resulting with a loss of consciousness and soon after, DEATH.

Treatment and Prevention

Prevention: BE PREPARED, never underestimate the weather or over-estimate your abilities. Be aware of others and yourself to recognize symptoms early, PREVENT continued heat loss by adding clothing. PRODUCE heat, internally (digest warm liquids or high carb. foods) or externally (obtain shelter, create fire). RELAX, continued physical exhaustion can accelerate core heat loss. HYDRATE, water aids in the regulation of core temperature and aids circulation.

Treatment: Reduce exposure as much as possible. Send for help ASAP. Remove wet or damp clothing; replace with dry clothing and extra insulating layers. Drink warm liquids or high-energy foods. If core temp drops below 95F, obtain medical attention as soon as possible.

*None of the foregoing is a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or medications. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Stay healthy, mind-body-spirit! -Z

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Go Expo...This Weekend

Will be conducting several Speed Demo's on a variety of survival skills. Drop by and say hello!!

Stay healthy, mind-body-spirit! -Z

Monday, January 3, 2011

Winter Driving: What to do if Stranded

1. Stay Calm
2. Stay with your vehicle
3. Avoid fatigue and exposure
4. Run your vehicles engine for short periods of time, 10-15 minutes per hour. Crack windows & ensure exhaust is free of blockage.
5. When using an open flame (Emergency heater or candle), keep windows cracked. Carbon monoxide is a killer.
6. After dark, turn inside dome light on, increasing visibility to rescue crews.
7. Fuel your internal engine to maintain core body temperature. Eat high energy foods, stay hydrated and move (exercise) if needed. Don’t forget to stretch: cold muscles tighten and increase injury risk.
8. Sleep in shifts.
9. Use hazards sparingly.
10. Blast horn in multiples of 3 (the universal distress signal).
11. Improvise: hubcaps make excellent shovels, seat cushions and upholstery can be used as emergency clothing and CD’s can be used as a signaling device.

Stay healthy, mind-body-spirit! -Z

Friday, December 24, 2010

Winter Driving: Emergency Supplies

Tis the season for travel, and with it the possibility of breakdown due to blizzard, white-out or flooding. Before you venture out on the roads for the white season, make sure you have satisfactory emergency gear in your vehicle and know how to use it:

Basic repair tools: Ice scraper, lug wrench, jumper cables, Jack, fire extinguisher, tow strap or chain, screwdrivers, ratchet set, duct tape, shovel, can tire inflator, sand or ice melt, kitty litter, pocketknife, folding saw, hand ax.
Signaling: safety flares, distress flag or brightly colored bandana, signal mirror or whistle.
Clothing and shelter: blankets or sleeping bag, tarp or tent, and spare clothing: hats, gloves, socks, winter boots, sunglasses.
Food and water: pot or cook kit, candy or energy bars, MREs, freeze-dried food, gallon of water, water bottles, water treatment tablets or filter,
First aid and hygiene: First aid kit, toilet paper or tissue, hand sanitizer, waste disposal kit.
Communication: FRS radio, cell phone, hand crank or solar radio w/cell phone charger.
Lighting: shaker or wind-up flashlight, lantern, headlamp.
In Glove Box: Personal survival kit.
Emergency heat: coffee can stove - small coffee or fruit can, roll of toilet paper (no scented) inside the can, square aluminum pie pan, matches or lighter, and a bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol poured over the TP, and lit - will heat a car interior for hours. Place heater on pie pan on passenger side floor. Crack a window for fresh air. *DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED.

Preparing your car for winter:

1. Check + winterize all systems: tires, radiator, heater, battery and wiper blades.
2. Install snow tires or carry chains.
3. Keep at minimum half tank of gas.
4. Carry emergency supplies, see above.
5. Insure good working conditions.

Stay healthy, mind-body-spirit! -Z