Patient evacuation in snow country may have to be performed by stretcher in exactly the same way as outlined above, but the use of sleds is usually much easier if the terrain allows. A ski sled (Figure 40.2) can be constructed as quickly as a stretcher and is a perfectly practical arrangement. Experience suggests that if soft snow is possible during the haul, a sled with three or four skis works much better than a sled with two. However, this also means another group member will have to walk. A sled is pulled and controlled by means of ropes attached to each corner. In suitable terrain, the pulling may be done most quickly on skis. In steeper country, light rope or cord should be attached to the sled pullers’ skis (light rope criss-crossed and knotted under the soles of the skis) to provide additional grip. In awkward, scrubby country snowshoes are probably best. Sleds have little lateral stability so they must be steered by the ropes. The issues with belaying stretchers apply equally to sleds.
Making a ski sled
- Two, three or four skis—use skis with three-pin bindings, and the largest and heaviest skis available. In soft snow, sleds with three or four skis work much better than sleds with two.
- One set of ski poles for each ski to be used.
- Five or six pieces of wood, 3–5 cm in diameter, 60 cm long for crosspieces (snow-shovel handles or tent poles could be used, but these may be expensive to replace if lost or broken).
- Large quantities of cord.
- 15–20 m of rope.
Method of construction:
- Lay the skis parallel, all tips in the same direction.
- Place the ski poles over each ski, with both handles near the bindings.
- Hook the pole basket of the front pole over the ski tip, and lash in place, keeping the lashing as high as possible to reduce drag. Adhesive tape is useful for this if available. The points of these poles can be a danger to the sled haulers, and should be covered with cloth or tape.
- Hook the basket of the rear poles through the skis, if the baskets will fit. If not, lash to the skis.
- Place the crosspieces over the ski poles, and lash to the ski poles only.
- Lash the centre crosspiece, and ski pole handles to the toe binding of the ski.
- Attach pull and rear guide ropes to the toe bindings, and then thread through the pole baskets.
- Pad the sled as for a bush stretcher.
If only two skis are used, no able member of the party (if all are skiers) is left without skis, although two have only one ski pole each. This sled if carefully constructed is light, strong but may not be easy to pull in soft snow.