Boulder's Backcountry Access has developed a free app that corrals a variety of avalanche-safety tools onto an iPhone.
BCA's Assessor app includes a tour planner that plots snowy mountain treks on a map and estimates mileage and vertical feet in a format that can be saved for later reference. The app's super-handy "3-in-1 Measuring Tool" allows users to measure slope aspect, angle and elevation and compare that data to avalanche forecasts for the area. Updated avalanche forecasts are uploaded as soon as the app is turned on and can be viewed even when there is no cell reception. Rescue guides not only offer tips on beacon searching and shoveling but also allow the user to easily convey GPS coordinates and other essential information to rescuers in an emergency.
Released for demo use on iPhones in the spring — and potentially on Android devices next year if demand warrants — the Assessor app facilitates better planning and communication among touring partners and hopefully gets backcountry travelers focused on route selection and potential dangers, said BCA co-founder Bruce Edgerly.
"A lot of experienced people are getting into avalanche incidents lately, and a lot of time it just has to do with planning and communication issues where people are not talking to each other about the plan and they are not on the same page," said Edgerly, who regularly interviews avalanche survivors to help direct his company's development of more efficient safety tools. "This is a central tool that you can use as a basis for discussion. It can help people check in with each other and operate from the same sheet music, so to speak."
Eighteen-year-old Backcountry Access is a pioneer in avalanche safety, with its digital Tracker avalanche beacon dominating the transceiver industry for the past decade. The company's Float backpacks have saved lives with air bags that inflate and buoy skiers trapped in a mountainside of moving snow. This winter, the company will release high-powered two-way radios to facilitate communication in the backcountry after seeing increasing avalanche incidents involving breakdowns in communication.
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