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Companion Rescue

Shovelling

The shovelling phase often takes the most time and definitely takes the most energy, so teamwork is key. The most efficient approach is to line up downslope of the probe, one metre apart.

The shoveller at the front of the line digs down, moving blocks of snow behind to the next person in line. Each shoveller in the lineup uses a paddling motion to keep that snow moving to the next person in line. This paddling motion is key to saving energy. Keep the shovel low; lifting the snow increases the effort but won't move the snow any faster.

The person closest to the probe is digging and doing the most work. Switching positions often and regularly increases efficiency.

As you get closer to the victim, focus on clearing snow from their face and chest.

The video and images on this page demonstrate the strike-team method of shovelling, the most efficient way to extricate an avalanche victim.

Backcountry Learning

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Diagram of spacing for shovelling team The second and subsequent rescuers in the line move the snow downhill like a conveyor belt, using a paddling motion. A marker on the mapThe conveyor belt approach forms a ramp that allows access to the buried person, and also provides a platform to administer first aid if needed. A marker on the mapIt’s important to rotate positions quickly and regularly. Don’t wait until the person at the front of the line is tired. Keeping the line moving will improve efficiency. A marker on the mapMove snow away from the face and chest first. Focus on the victim’s airway. You may have to remove obstructions, such as snow or ice, from their mouth. A marker on the mapThe person at the front of the line, closest to the probe, will be shovelling into very firm avalanche debris. The most efficient approach is to use the shovel blade to cut the snow into blocks before moving it backwards. A marker on the map
Backcountry Learning