While an avalanche backpack can keep the victim breathing and alive until rescuers arrive, another tool can play a critical role in locating the victim.
RECCO is not an Italian sea-side town (which is what shows up in Google searches) but rather a two-part system involving a reflector that allows a person to be located and a detector, typically used by rescue crews to search for avalanche victims. RECCO is a product that has been around for over 30 years, but is now starting to gain a much higher profile. RECCO labels are increasingly shown alongside GoreTex tags. Recco is the annoying little bar that you can find integrated in high-end ski and mountain clothing—and now even in mainstream items — and that most people don’t even know that they have. Last year a skier was rescued in Switzerland thanks to a RECCO he didn’t even know he had in his jacket.
Rescue crews around the world have Recco detectors, which have until recently were hand-held devices that are used by search and rescue crews on the ground, but now, thanks to further developments by the Swedish company, larger and more powerful detectors can be deployed on search and rescue helicopters, allowing rescuers to cover a much larger area in far less time. In the future, detectors will also be able to be mounted on drones that can cover areas where it is too difficult or dangerous to fly helicopters and to get much closer to victims. Frederik from the RECCO team explained how the device is not only being used for the most dramatic cases of avalanche rescue (only a small share of the persons rescued, as seen in the statistics from AiutAlpin), but also for who are people lost or injured in the woods, hikers, mushroom hunters, and particularly children. A big growth segment for the installation of the reflector devices is in outdoor clothing for children 8-12 years of age, as these youngsters often like to ski or snowboard off-piste and go exploring in the woods, but cannot always find their way back.. With the expansion in the consumer segment, the way the RECCO reflectors are being sold has also changed as the interest in the product has grown. Now it is no longer necessary to buy a new jacket, as you can buy attachable RECCOs for helmets and backpacks—and my favourite—integrated into a wool-insulated cellphone pouch.