How do I use an avalanche transceiver?

Modern transceivers have many new useful features. There is a lot to learn about using a transceiver by reading the manual that came with it. Below is an overview of how the search procedure works.

There are two phases to the search, the coarse and fine search.

Do these searches very very rapidly!

The Coarse Search.

There are two basic patterns for a coarse search, the zig-zag and fall line search.

Use a zig-zag pattern when:

  1. You have no PLS (Point Last Seen) or surface clue. AND

  2. There are not enough people to do parallel fall line searches that will cover the entire area.

    Conduct a zig-zag search over the entire slide path until you get a signal, then stop.

Use a fall line search when:

  1. You have a PLS. OR

  2. There are enough people to do parallel fall line searches and can cover the entire area. OR

  3. You have a surface clue (hat, glove, etc.).

Conduct a fall line search until you get a signal, then stop.

The Fine Search

The fine search starts as soon as someone gets the first signal. The fine search is a grid search.

Orient your unit shortly after a signal is picked up. Do this by rotating the unit horizontally to find the strongest signal. Then rotate it vertically to find the strongest signal. Only do 180 degree rotations since the orientation is the same for the opposite direction.

Crank down (select the lowest useful setting).

Start the Grid Search:

  1. Walk forward until the signal begins to fade.

  2. Stop. Crank down. Re-orient.

  3. Turn left or right, it doesn't matter which. (You will soon find out if you made the wrong turn.)

  4. Walk until the signal begins to fade. (Turn around and go the opposite direction if the signal immediately faded after your turn.)

  5. Stop. Crank down. Re-orient.

  6. Repeat until you found the point with the strongest signal.

  7. Dig like mad.

    Perform the grid search, then dig like mad.

Note: There are other advanced methods, such as the induction line method, that speed up the search but they are difficult to learn and confusing. Even with the advanced methods, you will always finish with a grid search since it is the only way to pinpoint the location. This FAQ does not cover advanced methods.