Training and a Memory Aid for Successful Companion Rescue

Henry’s Avalanche Talk was recruited by Val d’Isère & Tignes to run the companion rescue section of their avalanche training programme during a ‘VIP weekend’ this past April.

‘Companion rescue’ training shows you how to get your fellow skiers out from under the snow in 15 minutes or less, if any of you get caught and buried by an avalanche.

15 minutes is the target amount of time because according to the international avalanche safety community, that is the window of time in which a victim has the most chances of survival. According to the Utah Avalanche Center “Statistics show that 93 percent of avalanche victims can be recovered alive if they are dug out within the first 15 minutes, but then the numbers drop catastrophically. After 45 minutes, only 20-30 percent are still alive and after two hours almost no one is alive.”

Apparently, 70-75% of all deaths in avalanches are due to suffocation… So if you can get to your ‘companion’ quickly in a self contained rescue with your group, then their chances of survival are best.

Companion Rescue Training (click slider for more images)

Working closely with the professional Piste Patrol and Rescue services, I provided a combination of avalanche search and rescue training sessions with post-training overviews.

The event was part of a Val d’Isère and Tignes ‘VIP weekend’ event. The resorts wanted to do something special for their regular customers, many of them keen off-piste skiers and touring enthusiasts.

Piste Patrol and Rescue Services of Val d’Isère & Tignes – Ski Patrol and ‘Sécurité des Pistes’

The occasion provided an opportunity to put the HAT Emergency Companion Rescue Framework to the test. Those who did the rescue training sessions received a memory aid prototype, HAT ‘Rescue Card’: a handheld quick reference guide to the Companion Rescue Framework. The memory aid tool helps a person under pressure to apply the crucial rescue actions (see images of the card below).

The 15 minute survival window is much less time than it takes an average organised rescue to get to the scene. (That’s why the ‘Pro’ Rescue services are so keen that people learn ‘Emergency Companion Rescue’). So we were interested to see what they made of the HAT Rescue Framework: as a rescue tool and as a training tool. 

HAT Emergency Companion Rescue Framework

or ‘HAT Rescue Card’ for short

At the moment one can only speculate as to how well the memory aid card works as a rescue tool in a real situation.  But we all found that the HAT Emergency Companion Rescue Framework Card (‘Rescue Card’ for short) worked well as a training tool. Some of the ‘Pro’ rescue services members said that they felt that a tool for effective training is the most important, as this is where one gains the right automatic reactions for a real rescue – then the memory aid becomes a backup tool.

In short, the session showed that:

1. The Rescue Card helped the trainers and trainees to keep focused on the Companion Rescue points : those key points on how to get your friend out alive from under avalanche debris, if they are buried.

2. It helps people to remember to apply more detailed avalanche awareness education they may have had, such as HAT on-snow courses. And, in addition, it is as a complement memory aid (aid for applying) to other training platforms like the ORTOVOX Safety Academy.

3. In sum, it effectively helped to focus on :

i) teamwork 

ii) how human factors pressure can be overcome with practice, and it provided

iii) a rescue framework to help people to remember and keep focused on what to do.

4. In addition, the Pisteurs (Piste Patrollers) were keen on the idea that the training and having a ‘Rescue Card’ showed concrete evidence that they, and the resorts, are engaging as much as they can to help people to be safer. This is a point at the core of their ethos and also at the centre of the resorts’ promotion of their fantastic off-piste domain.

The ‘Rescue Card’ will soon be available to order via our website. For now, you can contact us on if you would like to order some. It is also part of all materials provided at HAT events from transceiver training to all the talks along with a similar ‘Prevention Card’

REMEMBER : Prevention is by far the best rescue technique – as is laid out in this brief video, Avalanche Safety in 10 minutes (link here


Our special thanks to the Val d’Isere and Tignes ‘Service des Pistes’, particularly Fab Jolly who organised this Rescue Training, and to the ‘Mairies’ of Val d’Isère and Tignes, who set up this VIP Weekend.

The Piste Patroller in charge of the Rescue training with the Val d’Isère ‘Service des Pistes’ was Fab Jolly. Fab is also the founder of ‘Pisteur Junior’’, a very successful programme that teaches children of Val d’Isère, Tignes and young guests of the resort about how rescues and the rescue services work

The mayors of Val d’Isère & Tignes, Tourist Office Directors & Piste Patrol Service Directors were all present at the VIP Weekend.