Why RECCO® is a no-brainer

By Rogier on 17 January 2021 · 0

So, let's start this article with a title that will evoke reactions. When freeriders and ski tourers talk about RECCO®, you hear these kind of words: “RECCO® is only useful for finding bodies.” That is far too short-sighted. There are just too many things being confused and wrong assumptions made. There are a number of good reasons when you go off-piste, to make sure that your apparel contains a RECCO® in addition to your beacon, shovel and probe. Because RECCO® can save the lives of avalanche victims. And also make the work of the mountain rescue a lot safer.

How does RECCO® work?

To start, it is good to understand what RECCO® actually is. It is a reflective strip that is incorporated in clothing, helmets and ski boots. It can be located by special transmitters. The specially developed reflector plate consists of antennas, which are adjusted in such a way that they resonate at the correct frequency. The search device sends out a highly focused beam of radio signals, precisely at the frequency at which the RECCO® plate resonates. The reflector plate then doubles back these signals. This means that the person manning the search device knows that he has found a RECCO® plate and not just any other metal plate of the same size. This search device is only used by professional rescue teams, because it is too big and too expensive to use as an off-piste skier yourself.

Virtually all ski areas and mountain rescue teams in the Alps have RECCO® search equipment. The mountain rescue can locate people who are buried or are lost relatively quickly. RECCO® can also be used from a helicopter, which makes it possible to quickly search large areas. Especially in the case of missing persons, and we are not even talking about avalanches, this can be very useful!

RECCO® is not a substitute for beeps, shovel and probe

If you go off-piste, you naturally need good knowledge and experience. This minimizes the chance that you will end up under an avalanche. To absorb the so-called residual risk, you have an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe. In an avalanche accident, the rescue must come from your buddies. Because, as you know, after about fifteen minutes, the chances of survival under the snow drops extremely. With an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe in trained hands, the chance of quickly locating and excavating an avalanche victim is high. So it goes without saying that you cannot wait for professional rescue in an avalanche accident. This makes it appear that RECCO® is of no use. However, that is not the case ...

But RECCO® has its place in your freeride gear

The fact that the RECCO® is not a substitute for a beacon, shovel and probe does not mean that we have to write it off. It is even advisable to always go out with a RECCO® reflector in your boot, jacket, helmet or pants. RECCO® has a number of major advantages:

  • With a RECCO® receiver, the mountain rescue can search and locate quickly and from far away.
  • A RECCO® receiver cannot actually break or switch off accidentally, unlike an avalanche transceiver. If your batteries run out, you forgot to turn on your beeps or your beeps broke in the avalanche, then you have a good backup with a RECCO® when the professional mountain rescue has arrived on site. There's definitely a chance that it's too late, but you never know.
  • A RECCO® receiver does not interfere with your avalanche transceivers.
  • RECCO® is ideal for finding missing people.
  • RECCO® offers a way to find people when all other means are no longer working, and for example faster than in-line probing, see graph below.

Extra backup

In this way, RECCO® is an extra backup with which you increase the chances when the mountain rescue comes on site and you still can be found. Because remember, as long as someone has not been found, hope remains! But also by using RECCO® you ensure that the mountain rescue, especially if your avalanche transceivers has failed, can search better and faster, so that they stay in a dangerous location for less time. Proof that RECCO® can certainly save lives? Check it out here. Incidentally, the more RECCO® plates you have incorporated into clothing, the easier it is for mountain rescue.

Why not?

The goal is of course that you never have to be searched with your RECCO®. But in the worst case it can mean the difference between life and death. And that for a reflector that actually costs nothing and weighs less than a quarter of a muesli bar. Often the reflector is already incorporated in your clothing, shoes or helmet. Then the choice is easy, right? A no-brainer!


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