Snow and Avalanche Center 2009 Avalanche News

RECCO Improves Receivers to Help Save Avalanche Victims

Boulder, CO - RECCO, a unique passive avalanche rescue system for ski and snowboard enthusiasts and rescue teams, has improved the portability of its detector system to allow for a faster response from rescuers. Most skiers and snowboarders have seen the tiny pinky-sized RECCO reflectors sewn into many pieces of ski and snowboard apparel from popular brands. They return harmonic radar signals emitted by a RECCO detector operated by ski patrollers and mountain rescue teams to pinpoint avalanche victim locations. RECCO is meant to supplement, not supplant, traditional snow safety devices: transceivers, probes and shovels. Working with more than 200 outerwear, ski boot and helmet manufacturers, RECCO increases safety in and around mountain resorts. The reflectors don't require a battery and are integrated into product worn on the body.

Up until now, however, RECCO detectors were bulky and found all too infrequently at mountaintop ski patrol stations. This season RECCO introduced to rescuers the R9 detector that for the first time tracks signals from both avalanche beacons worn by backcountry enthusiasts as well as popular RECCO reflectors. The dual function, hand-held device can greatly reduce the search times from hours to minutes. More than 100 North American ski resorts and rescue teams utilize RECCO and 600 organizations are equipped with the system worldwide.

Saving lives is about saving time, and searching for someone buried in an avalanche is similar to looking for a needle in a haystack. Traditional methods used by rescue teams involving probe lines are slow and labor intensive. RECCO's advanced rescue technology can make rescuers' jobs faster, easier and safer, providing another chance for buried victims. In any organized rescue scenario, speed and accuracy are paramount for search crews to find buried victims and increase their chance of survival.

RECCO is not a replacement for knowledge or experience in the backcountry, nor is it intended for companion rescue or as an alternative for a transceiver, its manufacturer cautions.

The RECCO system was developed by Magnus Granhed in collaboration with the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1983 after he lost a friend in an avalanche. The first live rescue attributed to RECCO occurred in 1987 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Log in for an Ad-free visit - Contributors can log in for advertising-free pages.
Avalanche Institute


HTML 4.01 Transitional Compliant - Validate