Everyone who travels in the backcountry has (or Should have) at least one avalanche course and good avy gear. As an avy trained ski patroller and backcountry skier I'd like to say a few words about recent avy gear advancements
We are all familiar with the standard avalanche gear, i.e.
SNOW STUDY KIT
But in the past several years there has appeared some significant new avalanche gear.
1. AVALUNG - This is a piece of strap on gear (or built into some backpacks) that can extend burial survival time by 45 minutes in an avalanched victim (who has no additional trauma). It does so by taking air from a location away from the face where an ice mask will form and cut off the air supply. And it also vents CO2 away from the air intake area to help provide cleaner intake air. Ya gotta have the mouthpiece ready for instant deployment or it's useless.
2. FLOTATION BAGS - There are about three makers of instant inflating backpack carried bags that will keep avalanched people on the surface of most avalanches... provided they are not strained through trees, boulders or flung over cliffs. In addition to floating the avy victim on or near the surface they can provide some protection from trauma of the head and cervical spine. Air bags have been proven life savers in cars, and now in avalanches as well. If you're wearing a helmet, as you should be, then you have additional protection. And your avy bag/gear pack will help protect the rest of your spine.
3. NEW FAST-TO-USE AVY BEACONS - The Ortovox S1 is to me the easiest to use and most foolproof. Closed it's in transmit. Flip it open like a cell phone and it's on recieve. And with its advanced software you can walk straight(er) to the victim without being forced to follow circuitous transmitted beacon flux line paths until the final few yards. This is a great time saver and time is life for buried victims.
But the new TRACKER II is also better in several ways and very simple to use also, not to mention hundreds of dollars less expensive than the S1 (but still 'spensive).
4. PLRBs like the ACR units and SPOT II give rescuers in a party that has one or more avalanched members an INSTANT way to call for help. Remember, saving an avalanched person may mean saving a person with significant injuries and/or hypothermia.
(Yeah, sattelite phones are great too if you can give GPS or lat/lon coordinates but, seriously, who can afford them?)
But I suggest useing two PLRBs in a winter backcountry party. The FIRST and LAST person across dangerous terrain should be the ones carrying them, in case one PLRB user gets avalanched.
So these are my picks for some true advances in avalanche rescue gear and its deployment. With All of them in use by a party travelling in avy country I'd say chances of rescue at every stage are much greater. Nobody wants to be in "recovery mode" after an avalanche.