Unless you’re in South America or New Zealand right now, you probably haven’t been too concerned about avy terrain safety and protocol. But Backcountry Access has got you covered for next season when the snow starts to fall.
BCA has been testing a smartphone app designed to help you plan backcountry tours, assess the avalanche danger, and improve group communication. Called the Backcountry Assessor, the app is available for demo use through the iTunes Apps Store. It is currently available for iPhone only. Depending on feedback, BCA hopes to release it to the public next season on both the iPhone and Android platform.
It’s part of BCA’s new focus on human factors and communication, attacking proactive methods to prevent avalanche accidents in the first place. The Backcountry Assessor provides the following tools:
1. Tour Planner: This enables the user to locate his or her touring destination—and backup plan—on a map, then plot each leg by double-clicking on each waypoint. The Tour Planner estimates the mileage and vertical feet for each leg, and a total time estimate for the complete tour.
2. 3-in-1 Measuring Tool: Enables the user to measure aspect, elevation, and slope angle, then store and directly compare it to the avalanche forecast for that zone.
3. Avalanche Forecasts: Updates the avalanche forecast each time the app is turned on, so they can be viewed even in areas with no cell reception. The user can pre-select forecasts from a menu of avalanche centers worldwide.
4. Rescue Guides: Bulleted summaries of how to perform an avalanche rescue, including videos of proper beacon searching and shoveling technique. A section on “Calling for Help” provides a list of information to gather at the scene of an accident.
5. Field Tools: A menu of communication tools including the AIARE Communication Checklist, AIARE Decision Making Framework, and AIARE Observation Reference.
The app also provides a locator map of cylinder refill and exchange centers for BCA Float airbags.