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Course Outline

Only you can keep yourself safe. If you are operating a snowmobile in British Columbia, you must be aware of avalanche risks. Rescue gear is essential, but if you want to avoid causing or being caught in an avalanche, the most important factors are taking an avalanche skills training course and making the right choices about where to ride.

In mountainous areas where avalanches may be a problem, be sure to wear a transceiver on your body and carry an avalanche probe and shovel in a pack on your back. If riding in a group, each person needs to have all three essential items.

Essential Equipment

Transceiver (beeper) A digital three-antenna avalanche transceiver is the standard for transceivers. A transceiver lets rescuers locate you if you’re trapped in an avalanche. Riders set their transceivers to “transmit” normally. After an avalanche, rescuers switch theirs to “receive.” Everyone in your riding group must wear an avalanche transceiver under their clothing, against their body.
Avalanche probes Similar to lightweight tent poles, these probes let you search for persons or objects hidden under the snow. You also can use them to check the depth or firmness of the snow. If you are riding in drier climates, 240 cm is the shortest standard length probe that will work for rescue. If you’re riding in deeper snowpack areas, you should use a probe that is 320 cm long. Probes made of carbon are light and strong. Just be sure to choose a probe with a durable locking mechanism and a line or cable that doesn’t stretch. Your probe should be carried in a pack on your back.
Shovel You can dig out an avalanche victim. You also may need to dig out your own snowmobile if it gets stuck in snow. You should carry a separate shovel for digging out your snowmobile; do not use the avalanche rescue shovel that you carry in the pack on your back for this task. Your avalanche shovel should have an extendable shaft and a flat top and be made of sturdy metal, not plastic. Cold temperatures and hard avalanche debris can break plastic. To learn about essential proper shoveling techniques, go to

For more information about additional avalanche gear—including airbags, RECCO, and releasable bindings—see the CAC’s recommended gear information.

If you plan to ride over frozen water, take additional precautions.

  • Carry emergency ice picks designed for snowmobilers and fishermen. If you fall through the ice, you can anchor the palm-size picks at the edge of the hole and pull yourself out of the water.
  • Some snowmobile jackets are now designed to provide flotation. Wearing one of these jackets, or even a personal flotation device under your jacket, will greatly increase your chances of survival if you fall into open water.
Snowmobile frozen water gear—Jacket and ice pick
Snowmobile avalanche gear—Shovel, avalanche probes, and transceiver (beeper)
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