Excavating avalanche debris after a probe strike to recover a buried victim.

Credit: Teton Gravity Research

Shoveling may seem rather elementary, but it is the most demanding and time consuming phase of a rescue. Strategic shoveling techniques will help reduce burial time and could save your partner’s life. Shovel downhill of the victim to preserve their airway and reduce your shoveling efforts. For shallow burials less than a meter deep, simply take one step downhill and begin shoveling towards the victim. For deeper burials, take two steps downhill. Clear snow by chopping or paddling the snow to create a 1 to 2 meter wide platform that ramps down towards the victim. Start by clearing snow to the sides, then shift to clearing it downhill once side clearing becomes inefficient. If you have multiple shovelers, use a rotating conveyor belt method for efficiency.

Use a rotating conveyer belt technique with multiple shovelers. Credit: Genswein and Eide