For well over a decade now we have been preached to about the necessity to carry the three essentials for backcountry skiing safety, namely probe, beacon and shovel. There are many other things that we all carry (or at least should) such as extra food/water and a good warm layer of down. On the outskirts our 'safety gear' list is likely a first aid kit, map/compass, repair kit, and headlamp - yes it's true some people don't have these in their packs (why do you think they can ski tour with a 30 litre pack?). Not even on the farthest reaches of ones radar is the idea of carrying a rescue sled.
It should be. Read on.
So, I have my AST2 course fresh in my mind, I know how to recognize avalanche terrain and safely manage it and route find accordingly. I have taken into account the current and future weather patterns and have my trusty probe, beacon, shovel (and know how to use them all efficiently). My pack even contains a first aid kit, warm down jacket and spare gloves and my trusty 'bag of tricks' that has among other things in it: compass, Brooks-Range backcountry multi-tool, repair kit and head lamp (including spare batteries). So I am knowledgeable and prepared - what could go wrong. Well, truthfully - anything, and if it does and someone gets injured due to a tree well, avalanche, bad skiing or just bad luck - then what?
You may only be 5km from the car but with your skiing buddy not able to ski or skin out due to injury you are not going anywhere fast, or rather anywhere at all. Think about the other side of all that safety gear you currently carry - you have it to stay safe and repair your gear and yourself but if you get hurt what exactly is your plan to get back to safety? Leaving your buddy in the backcountry is not ideal and even with a party of 5 on a cabin trip having to move an injured person even 500 metres is going to take you most of the day.
This is where the Brooks-Range Ultralite Rescue Sled comes into the equation. Brooks-Range is a company fast becoming know for designing and producing innovative backcountry rescue gear, from bivies and avi gear to the three rescue sleds they currently offer. The lightest and most suited to backcountry skiers is the Brooks-Range Ultralite Rescue Sled which weighs in at 705.9 grams or slightly more than a thermos of hot tea. The Ultralite Rescue Sled is comprised of five 24" backcountry ski straps and two Pro Stretcher Bars that are made up of four nested aircraft quality aluminum locking bars which are all contained within the ultralite rip-stop nylon sled, 'taco roll' style. The entire package is quite compact and packs down to the size of a small down jacket (4 x 11 x 2"). It gives you everything you need (except for the tow rope) to build a solid sled out of the subjects skis and poles and securely fasten them for transportation.
The construction of the sled is relatively fast but like anything you need to practice this multiple time in the comfort and security of your living room before venturing out. If you build it properly the Brooks-Range Ultralite Rescue Sled is unbelievably rigid and sturdy - build it improperly and it will not get you far. Attached to the red nylon fabric are built-in carry handles which are reinforced for lifting the subject vertically and all the tie down straps you will need to secure the subject. Diagrams on how to build the sled are featured on the inside of the nylon fabric incase you get confused along the way and the straps are all colour coded. The Brooks-Range Ultralite Rescue Sled slides along the snow on the subjects skis and moves easily and quickly as there is nothing impeding the forward motion. (Please note: The Brooks-Range Ultralite Rescue Sled is not intended to be used as a back board but only as an emergency transportation product.)
1. Unpack the Brooks-Range Ultralite Rescue Sled
2. Prepare the Pro Stretcher Bars (lock the 2 red bars together and 2 black bars together)
3. Place the skis into the Pro Stretcher Bar slots
4. Secure the poles with five 24" Backcountry Ski Straps to form the sled platform and the cross bracing
5. Place the red nylon sled material over the constructed sled platform (skis and poles) and tension the straps so that everything is held into place
6. Place the subject onto the sled (you may want to insulate them with a sleeping mat or jackets as they will get cold and possibly hypothermic)
7. Secure the subject to the sled with the two straps in a crisscross pattern
8. Affix a tow rope to the sled and begin transportation
For additional information on how to assemble and use the Brooks-Range Ultralite Rescue Sled
have a look at this video.
Cost: $238 US
Weight: 24.90oz / 705.90g
Size: self taco rolled to 4 x 11 x 2" or 10.16 x 27.94 x 5.08cm
Requirements: Skis of any width and lengths from 135cm to 205 cm
Compact and light, easy to build (with practice), well thought out design with built in instructions.
Pro stretchers bars hard to fit on bigger fat ski tips.
Quality / Price 1.5/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.
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