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What should I know about traditional avalanche cords?

Years ago when I was doing more backcountry skiing in areas with some avalanche danger I used an avalanche cord (50 feet of red 1/2" nylon cord) tied to my belt dragging behind me when crossing areas of risk. I never read anything about their value then and haven't seen nor heard about their use since. Does anyone know if they offer much value? I can't imagine that the boarders and others are all out their buying $300 transceivers. Short of a transceiver or an avalung, are cords worth anything?

An avalanche cords works! You pull it behind, deployed only when you need it. You can't pull it out of your pocket in a wad as you start to avalanche away. It will stay in a wad of cord and markers. (The markers show the direction to the entombed person). The light red cord is designed to "float" to the top.

That being said, unless you are willing to risk death for a ride (as many are today) avalanche avoidance is the way to go. The red cord and today's expensive gadgets may provide just the excuse a group needs to just do it.

This psychology is recognized in several articles. Read about Avalanche Avoidance and the added risk of using expensive gadgets and gear (sorry, sales folk) at

PS: I forgot to mention that the avalanche cord is not 1/2 inch line, it is braided light nylon utility line (like parachute cord).

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Warning: Traditional Mountaineering is an inherently dangerous sport!
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