How to use: the Be Avalanche Aware app launched by SAIS

Posted by Peter Burnside on 03/01/2018
Prepare for winter mountains with the new SAIS app. Photo: Shutterstock / My Good Images

The latest tool for winter adventurers is a handy app with a host of features to help you stay safe in the mountains. Find out how to use the Be Avalanche Aware App that was recently launched by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS).

Make sure you enjoy the winter mountains safely with the new Be Avalanche Aware App. It provides easy access to daily avalanche reports and even notifies you based on your location. Other tools and features help you plan and prepare, gather important information – like determining if a slope’s aspect and angle are high risk – and links to other useful resources.

DOWNLOAD: The free BAA app here

At the moment, the app is only available for download on iOS devices, but SAIS say that an Android version is coming soon.

How to use the Be Avalanche Aware App

After installing and opening the app, be sure to allow BAA to send you notifications and access your location. This enables map location positioning and location specific avalanche forecasts to be sent to you when you enter a forecast area and reminder notifications will be sent to you during the day. Notifications can always be reconfigured in settings.

Tools for preparation

The app allows you to download free maps for offline use, which can be a handy back-up in case you lose your maps. Remember that you shouldn’t rely completely on your phone for navigation and to carry spare maps and compasses. If you didn’t download the maps in the initial setup, you can do it later through the Slope Aspect tool.

Once in the main menu, click the top option to read through the guidelines to becoming avalanche aware and the app will take you through the planning, journey and key places phases while providing photo and video resources to illustrate questions and answers.

The next option in the main menu provides current Avalanche Hazard Reports for the area you are located in as well as all other areas. And the next two options explain the European Avalanche danger scale, while providing travel advice, and break down the key snow stability observations found in the avalanche forecasts.

Tools for use in the mountains

The Slope Aspect Hazard Tool uses the phone’s GPS and maps to identify your position in the landscape and uses the ‘Hazard Rose’ to show how the slope aspect relates to the published hazard report. The rose shows the risk of avalanches at different levels of elevation (the outside circle is of a lower elevation than the inner circle) and in all the different aspects.

Another handy option is the Slope Angle Tool, which allows users to measure the angle of the slope using the camera and phone accelerometer. Hold the phone vertically and view the slope through the phone’s camera, then tilt the phone until the horizontal red line aligns with the top of the slope you intend to ascend, or the base of the slope you intend to descend. The slope angle will be displayed and will become red at the critical angle of 35 degrees.

WATCH: The BAA App feature on BBC Scotland

Submit an Avalanche Report

Don’t forget, the gathering of avalanche data is vital to the SAIS as it helps provide clear, real-time hazard information and is the best indicator of the immediate short-term snow stability situation. If you witness an avalanche be sure to complete and submit an avalanche report, which is now easy to do through the app or you can do it on the SAIS website.

Mark Diggins, SAIS co-ordinator and IFMGA Mountain Guide, says: “From the first snowfalls, all forecasters will be looking at how the winter develops, as snowpack history is important when determining hazard. Additionally all members of the team will go on the hill to look at snow distribution and stability.

“Keep looking at weather and avalanche forecasts daily throughout the season so you know what is going on before you go into the mountains. Be flexible with your plan so that you have alternatives in different locations. In this way you are best placed to take advantage of conditions elsewhere. A lot of avalanche accidents occur when people continue with a fixed plan because they have invested too much into one objective and do not change it if conditions are unfavourable.

“Most importantly, there is no shame in turning back when uncertain about conditions. A climb will always be there for another day. ”

MORE INFO: Can be found on the SAIS website


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