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As people become disenchanted by the glitz and glam that ski resorts have become, skiers and snowboarders are looking elsewhere to find a connection to nature. Many of these riders are looking for the off-piste experience but with minimal effort. Touring equipment has responded by making lighter, faster and stronger gear to push deeper into the backcountry. However the avalanche safety and technology has not evolved to match these novice explorers entering the backcountry market. 

Together with my teammate Mathias Hintermann, we set out to design an avalanche transceiver that would create confidence for the novice user’s experience. This transceiver needed to be sensitive to the stressful situation of an avalanche burial and drastically reduce the search time for the untrained user. Mathias (from Switzerland) and my experience in Colorado were able to combine our extensive off-piste experience to develop a device. This is a student project and does not endorse or reflect the views of Mammut.

 

Because finding a person quickly is so important, a short learning curve is imperative. Incorporating other search technologies to supplement the transceiver signal will create a faster and simpler search. Personally using the top avalanche transceivers, we then put these devices into novice users hands under low stress situations to understand how these people intuitively hoped the search worked. The most important insight from this is there are too many options on most transceivers adding to the confusion. These users wondered why there were not just three options; off - on - search.

Any time you decide to go off-piste, there is a risk for avalanches. The most important method of avalanche mitigation is education and avoidance. However, these methods are very hard to adhere to considering 90% of all avalanche victims are men between 20 to 30 years old. The required equipment for backcountry skier is a shovel, probe and avalanche beacon to locate someone who has been buried in an avalanche. A person buried in an avalanche will only have 20 minutes of air before severe brain damage can occur and after this, the survival rate drops to 30%.

 

Behavioral Insights 

 

As a searcher initially starts to search for the victim it is imperative that there is a command given to the searcher to tell them what to do. The device takes time for a search lock and the searcher needs to feel they are doing something more than just weighting for the device to work.

 

Our observations showed the searcher will go into tunnel vision, only looking at the commands on the device. With many avalanche burials, there is often gear on the surface that could give you a very quick idea of where the buried person is located which can drastically speed up the process.

 

As the searcher arrives to the location of the buried person, there is no command telling them that they are in the right spot and to start probing and digging for the victim. The searcher had hesitation switching from searching to digging, and this lost valuable time.

 

From our interviews, we created a wish list of features. Stout build, large screen, large buttons, long range, GPS and tracking, infinite battery, and confidence. The most important physical features with designing the avalanche Beacon is large and easy to control features from a person who is experiencing high stress, in extreme weather conditions.


The final design was inspired from the idea of using a magnifying glass to search through the snow. The device only has three settings off - on - find. Drastically focusing what this device is intended to do.

 

Mammut Swift Design 

 

Quick Search Technology 

Mammut Swift uses the existing avalanche signal along with Recco search technology and GPS tracking to ensure the most efficient search pattern. Mammut Swift processes information from these three systems to create a larger search area and a quicker more effective search strategy to hone in on buried victims.

 
 

User Interface 

 

Mammut Swift had three main requirements with its interface. Large controls that can be easily manipulated with gloves on. A large screen that can be seen in high glare snow conditions. And positive feedback of what setting the device is currently in and what the searcher should be doing at that moment.

 

Mammut Swift is designed around a rotary control, off - on - find are all set by rotating the head unit around the handle eliminating much of the confusion associated with the small buttons on products in the market.


The intended use of Mammut Swift was designed to be incredibly similar to products on the market already. Turn the unit on when you leave the car, testing against your friends devices and stow under your jacket while you go skiing. The real difference between Mammut Swift and other products happen when the device is set into search mode. Global positioning, paired with Recco and the avalanche signals triangulate the searcher to the victim over longer distances quicker than any other device on the market.