The folks from Ortovox came to the shop this morning to put on a clinic about the avalanche beacons and general avalanche safety. The name Ortovox comes from two German words, ortho and vox. Translated, ortho means location and vox means voice. Their slogan is “The Voice of the Mountains” and they have been setting the standard for avalanche beacons for the past 35 years!
Since Ortovox avalanche beacons came on the scene, they set the standard 457 kilohertz frequency now used in all beacons on the market. Thanks to this standardization, it doesn’t matter if the people you are backcountry skiing with have a different brand beacon, they will all be able to effectively communicate with one another.
More important than innovative new technologies and providing people with great avalanche safety gear, Ortovox prides itself on putting avalanche education at the heart of their business. They have formed a strong partnership with AIARE, The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. This internationally recognized organization develops avalanche safety curriculum and instructor training.
Working with AIARE, Ortovox has created a three step system for proper backcountry safety; Education, Companion Rescue, and Self-Rescue.
The best avalanche safety is educating yourself and taking courses that teach you signs of avalanche hazard, reading the terrain, testing snowpack, and knowing how to avoid the places that an avalanche is likely to happen. We highly recommend taking avalanche safety course to familiarize yourself before heading into the backcountry. Even with the best avalanche safety education, you always have to be prepared for the worst – this is where companion rescue comes into play.
When things take a turn for the worst, people start loosing their cool. It’s so important to remain calm in any avalanche situation and try to compose yourself as best you can. Take a moment to check your bearings, gather your senses, and think clearly through your actions. All persons in your group (and you should always be out there with a group) should be equipped with an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel. Moreover, It’s one thing to have proper avalanche safety gear, it’s another thing to know how to use it.
Avalanche beacons transmit a frequency signal to other beacons communicating the direction and distance between the two devices. The signal gets sent off in a flux line, an apple core shaped arc, and the signal changes based on the orientation of the beacon antenna. Ortovox has a patented technology using multiple antennas in all of their beacons which will automatically adjust the signal transmission based on the orientation of the beacon. This adjustment optimizes effectiveness and increases the likelihood of being located.
Gaining popularity in recent years is an airbag backpack system. You pull the ripcord on the shoulder straps when an avalanche is triggered. Airbags are instantly deployed from the pack to keep you afloat in the sea of rushing snow. There is a 97% survival rate among avalanche airbag deployments. These are to be considered a last measure and should always take the backseat to avalanche education and companion rescue.