The "fine search" begins when the distance displayed on your transceiver during the
coarse search is approximately three meters. (On
all modern transceivers, the directional indicator will stop displaying at two or three
meters.) The goal of the fine search is to get as close to the victim as possible.
The fine search is not difficult, but it is undeniably the portion of the transceiver
search that requires the most practice and where most people struggle.
The following instructions explain the fine search. The video on this page demonstrates
To perform a fine search:
Take off your skis and get on your knees. You need to be nimble and close
to the surface of the snow.
Hold your transceiver just above the snow.
Keep your transceiver the same height above the snow throughout the
fine search. Raising it even slightly (i.e., the length of a cigarette) will
cause the displayed distance to change.
Do not rotate your transceiver during the fine search. It should remain
pointing in the direction it was at the end of the
Slowly move your transceiver forward in the direction you were heading during
the coarse search until the distance undeniably
A single increase in the distance is not "undeniable." You should continue moving
your transceiver forward until the distance increases two or three times.
Move your transceiver back to the lowest distance.
Remember to keep your transceiver pointing the same direction and
the same height above the snow.
Slowly move your transceiver to the right (or left) until the distance undeniably
Slowly move your transceiver in the opposite direction (i.e., left or right)
as the distance decreases and then undeniably increases.
Move back to the lowest number. This is the point where you will begin probing.
Mark this point clearly in the snow.
If you have your ski poles, the best approach is to stick a pole into the
snow, grip first, so you won't lose the location where you found the shortest
distance. You can then probe around
your ski pole.
If you don't have a ski pole, considering marking the spot by punching your fingers
into the snow to create an obvious mark. (Of course, it is easy to lose sight of this mark
by mistakenly stepping on it when you are deploying your probe.)
Some rescuers suggest marking the spot using a glove or hat.
Others point out that it is easy for the item to get bumped. You decide.
Stow your transceiver before you begin probing.
Take the ~10 seconds to secure your transceiver so it won't get it the way
when you are probing and shoveling. Options include stowing it in its harness, in a nearby pocket,
or by dropping it down your jacket's collar.
In most cases, you should leave your transceiver in search mode. Its
beeping may be annoying, but remaining in search mode will
prevent confusion if other rescuers are searching for a second victim. Staying in search mode
will also save time if you need to repeat the fine search.
Keep in mind that it is easy to unintentionally switch some transceivers from searching
to sending when you stow it (e.g., by bumping the end of a Tracker 2).
Fine Search Tips:
Only one rescuer is needed for the fine search. Additional rescuers should
begin assembling their probes and
shovels. If there are multiple victims and more
than enough rescuers, the additional rescuers should begin a
multiple burial search.
Keep your transceiver pointing the same direction throughout the fine search.
Don't inadvertently rotate it as you move forward/backward and left/right.
Keep your transceiver the same height above the snow. If you
raise or lower it, the displayed distance will change.
You may find it helpful to scratch a line in the snow when the displayed
distance decreases. You'll then end up with a "box" drawn in the snow.
If your transceiver has fewer than three-antennas
(e.g., a Tracker DTS), you may find more than
one location on the snow surface that displays a low distance reading. These are
spikes. If this occurs, simply do the fine search as described
on this page until you find a low reading and begin probing at that location.
Novices typically move too quickly during the fine search and then waste a lot of
time repeating the forward/backward, left/right bracketing. If you do the fine search
slowly and methodically, the bracketing can be done once. The entire fine search should
take less than 60 seconds.
Watching the video at the top of this page will help you understand the fine search