Verschneite Winterlandschaft, zwei Personen mit Tourenski gehen einen Hang hinauf.

Winter sports

Avalanche awareness, waxing your skis and planning tours five tips

  • #Ski tours
  • #Snowshoeing
Sales Consultant, Transa store Markthalle Bern
© Fotos

You want to be ready as soon as the first snowflakes hit the ground: you’ve refreshed your avalanche awareness, waxed your skis to perfection and planned your first tour. Sales advisor Benu has put together a list of the key tips to ensure everything goes smoothly.

It might be a while before the first snowflakes start falling – so now’s the time to get ready for your first tour! Refresh your knowledge of all things avalanche-related, wax your touring skis or have them serviced and check your equipment. Here, you’ll learn how to best prepare for your first ski tour. Freshen up your knowledge so you’re prepared for winter.

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Avalanche awareness

Avalanche awareness

Avalanche safety plays a key role in winter sports. Every year, people lose their lives when on ski or snowboard tours, when snowshoeing or when Alpine skiing or snowboarding. As a result, you should develop a good level of avalanche awareness and refresh this knowledge at regular intervals. How should I read an avalanche bulletin? What types of avalanches exist? How and where do they form? How can I recognise patterns of danger and assess them? Where can I get down? You need to be able to answer these and similar questions before you leave the secured slopes.

The book ‘3x3 Lawinen – Risikomanagement im Wintersport’ (978-88-7073775-2, CHF 36.90, available from Transa Books) by international author and mountain guide Werner Munter offers an up-to-date summary of avalanche awareness information. Further insight can be gleaned from avalanche information evenings run by Transa and Höhenfieber.

You should expand your avalanche knowledge by completing practical exercises: how can you estimate the angle of a slope? How can you appraise the snow profile? How can you choose your route through the terrain? And what should you do if, despite all your preparation, you’re caught up in an avalanche? Höhenfieber offers foundation and extension courses that teach you everything you need to know in practice. After all, the very best safety equipment is worth naught if you can’t use it properly in an emergency.

By the way, beginners aren’t the only people who need to develop good avalanche awareness: experienced ski tourers should also refresh their knowledge regularly.

Jemand übt den Umgang mit einem LVS-Gerät, falls jemand unter eine Lawine kommt.

Practice how to use your avalanche transceiver at least once at the start of each season. That way you’ll know how to use it if someone needs to find you in an avalanche.

Photo © Ruedi Thomi
Safety equipment

Safety equipment – avalanche transceiver and avalanche airbag

If an emergency occurs, you need to be able to rely on equipment like your avalanche transceiver, probe or an avalanche airbag backpack – so you should check over this equipment with a fine-toothed comb before your first tour.

Ideally, you had taken the batteries out of your avalanche transceiver in spring. If you forgot to do this, carefully check to see whether they’ve leaked and damaged the device. In any event, you should swap them for new batteries. Whether they should be alkaline or lithium batteries is detailed in your device’s instructions. Lithium batteries last longer at lower temperatures, but can’t be used in all devices. You shouldn’t use rechargeable batteries: they operate at lower voltages, and therefore give your device a shorter reach and operating time.

Manufacturers regularly update the software on their avalanche transceivers: make sure the version on your device is up to date, so you can count on the fastest, most reliable search. Transa can let you know if there’s an update for your device.

You should put your avalanche airbag backpack to the test once a year. These backpacks can contain two different systems: air bags that inflate using a gas cartridge, and those that use a battery-powered blower. If you have an electric system, you should check the battery after summer and test it out as many times as you like. If you have a cartridge model, you need to change the cartridge after each test. If it’s an ABS, you also need to change the trigger handle. Some systems, such as those used in Ortovox and Mammut products, can be triggered ‘dry’: this tests the trigger mechanism but the cartridge isn’t screwed in and the airbag isn’t inflated. Weigh the cartridge regularly to check if it’s full enough. If it’s more than five grams lighter than the weight printed on the exterior, you should replace it. You’re welcome to pop by Transa’s Markthalle Bern, Lucerne or Zurich Europaallee stores for help with all this.

Other equipment

Check your other equipment

Every touring backpack needs a first aid kit. Make sure there’s nothing missing from it and that any medication is in date. Tip: pick a set with a survival blanket, as this can make the difference between life or death in an emergency.

Also check over your ski touring clothing before the season starts. Your backpack’s shoulder straps rub on your jacket, while sweat and skin oils impact the material’s functionality over time. Regular washing and waterproofing help it to maintain tip-top performance and minimise wear. If you want your clothing to be professionally cleaned, we offer a cleaning service.

Ski and snowboard service

Have your skis or snowboard serviced

 Your first ski tour of the season is on the horizon and you suddenly realise that your skis or snowboard are in urgent need of servicing. You might be able to wax your skis yourself, but if not, we’d be happy to help. At our Markthalle Bern, Lucerne and Zurich Europaallee stores, you can get your equipment ready for winter. We offer the following options:

  • Mini service: waxing, sanding edges, stone grinding, base grinding. Skis: CHF 49, snowboard: CHF 59

  • Base repairs: CHF 10 (per broken area)

  • Full service: waxing, sanding edges, stone grinding, base grinding, major improvements to base. Skis: CHF 69, snowboard: CHF 79, splitboard: CHF 89

 We also offer services for touring skis:

  • Skin cutting: free when bought from us, otherwise CHF 40

  • Skin regluing: price based on outlay

  • Binding re-mounting: CHF 80, if we have the right drill jig

It’s important to have your bindings checked regularly: are the release values set correctly? Has your weight changed, and do the bindings need to be adjusted?

«Give your skis or snowboard a generous coat of wax before putting them away. This prevents the base from drying out and becoming inelastic over the summer.»
Sales Consultant, Transa store Markthalle Bern
Tour planning

Tour planning

Carefully planning your ski or snowshoe tour not only reduces the risk of you being caught up in an avalanche: it’s also a fun thing to do!

Plan your route at home using topographical maps, paying particular heed to the terrain. If you have the necessary avalanche awareness, you can spot dangerous points and adapt your tour to take the current weather and snow conditions into account. It’s important that the tour is a good fit for your group’s abilities.

The ‘Ski & Snowboard Tourenatlas Schweiz’ (ISBN: 978-3-033-04116-5, CHF 103.00, available from Transa Books), contains genuine insider tips and tours at every level of difficulty, plus topographical maps to take with you.

If you’re new to ski touring, I highly recommend taking a course: our partner Höhenfieber offers courses tailored to beginners and advanced skiers alike.

  • #Ski tours

  • #Snowshoeing

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