With 90% of avalanche victims releasing the slide of snow themselves or by a member of their group, it’s vital that we are able to read and make decisions on snow stability. The more information your group has, the better equipped you’ll be to make educated decisions and reduce the risk of becoming caught in an avalanche.
One way of understanding snow stability while out on the hill is by using a Slope Angel Halo.
Slope Angel are a small avalanche safety equipment manufacturer based in the French Alps where the equipment is designed, developed and tested. The company was founded by Jerry, who has a strong product development and design background following the founding and success of many energy companies, including the portable power company, TexEnergy.
The Slope Angel Halo provides you with five key features to aid you in your avalanche safety decision making whilst travelling in the mountains. These functions are cycled through when pushing the up or down buttons that flank the LCD screen.
Just like the original Slope Angel unit, the Halo has an inbuilt inclinometer to measure the gradient of a slope. I find this easiest to place the device on my ski pole to get a good representation of the steepness of the slope that I’m on. Slope steepness is an important feature to manage whilst you’re out in the hills as research shows that most avalanches occur on slopes varying between 30° to 50°.
Checking your transceiver at the start of each day is mandatory practice when using avalanche safety equipment. Slope Angel Halo has an inbuilt transceiver checker that ensures everyone in the group’s transceiver is switched on and sending/receiving correctly. Confirmation of a working transceiver is made clear through an audible beep and visual green light from the Halo.
The Halo features a barometer that can be calibrated to set your reference altitude throughout the day, just like a barometer watch. Many weather and avalanche forecasts will give you the altitudes to expect specific events (such as strong winds or a change in avalanche conditions), so it’s imperative to keep an eye on your altitude in relation to the forecasts. Altitude is not just a vital avalanche safety factor to manage, but it’s also important for navigating around featureless winter mountains.
Sudden temperature rise or prolonged periods of very cold temperatures can influence snowpack stability. Slope Angel Halo gives you current temperature readings, both in °C and °F, meaning that you’ll be able to keep up to date with real-time weather changes. Slope Angel is just for surface air temperature, not for reading internal snow temperatures.
Keeping up with the time is vital, particularly in spring when the snow is going through a typical solar cycle each day. My watch is frequently buried beneath layer after layer of clothing during winter, so it’s handy to have a piece of equipment that I can keep outside of my clothing to keep track of the time. The Halo reads a 24hr clock when cycling through the functions.
All these features are tied together with a battery life that’s claimed to last up to two years of moderate use. The Halo has also been built lightweight, yet strong, with a waterproof rating of IP65 so that it can be used and abused in all conditions.
This product does not replace the need for the mandatory safety equipment of transceiver, shovel and probe. It also doesn’t replace the training required to avoid being caught in an avalanche in the first place. But for just £45, it makes for an invaluable tool in your arsenal to help equip you in making informed decisions in the mountains.
More information on the Slope Angel Halo is found here.