One good thing about snowy survival scenarios is that ground-to-air rescue signals are easy to spot on the white background. One terrible thing about that same scenario is that a little more snow can hide your signal completely.
Any rescue signal needs to be huge if it is to catch the attention of aircraft, regardless of the situation. This will be true on a desert island or deep in the snow-covered backcountry. While the snow does create a blank canvas for you to build a high-contrast signal for aircraft to spot, the snow also has its share of problems.
Any signal you build should be able to be quickly and easily cleaned off when additional snow falls on it. Building “X”s and squares out of dark-colored logs will provide excellent contrast against the snow. And since the logs are dark, a few hours of sunlight may warm the bark enough that it will melt off additional thin snow falls. Think of it as a self-maintaining signal.
Another snowy SOS trick is to use food coloring mixed in water or potassium permanganate crystals sprinkled across the snow. The permanganate will stain the snow purple, while the food coloring will stain the snow whichever color you choose.
A giant fire can be an excellent snow country signal. Not only do the resultant light and smoke signal for help, but the snow will melt around the fire, leaving a large, round, dark patch of ground, which a low altitude plane or search helicopter should see for sure.
A colorful signal panel is another good way to indicate where your camp is located, especially if that panel has a contrasting color and is large enough to be seen from a distance. Don’t waste your blanket for this one: It’s not big enough, and it’s more valuable wrapped around you. Use a tarp or something else that is bright or reflective. Make sure you secure the panel tightly to branches, poles or other objects so that the wind cannot blow it away.
Have you ever been saved thanks to signals, or been on an SAR team that rescued someone because of the signals they used? Please tell us all about it in the comments.