Despite all of the challenges associated with wintertime survival, this can be the best time of year to signal for help.  The lack of vegetation, good visibility on sunny days, and vast expanses of white snow on the ground create the right conditions to attract the attention of rescuers.  Let’s look at a few ways that you can use the snow to your advantage if you ever need to be rescued in the winter.

Painting the Canvas

So many different colors contrast with the white backdrop of snow-covered terrain, and this gives you limitless opportunities to make a signal that can attract attention.  All you need to do is mark a spot that is out in the open and large enough to be noticed from a distance.  You can use dark rocks, large branches, logs, charcoal, foliage or even extra clothing to lay down a distress signal.

One ingenious idea is to mix some food coloring with water and write out a symbol or message that will alert people to your position.  What’s nice about this technique is that you don’t need to go through a lot of effort to make the signal, and the color will definitely stand out.

The main downside to placing signals atop snow is that they will get covered once new snow falls.  Consequently, you will need to be re-writing, clearing snow from logs, branches or rocks and constantly maintaining your signal to make sure that is still visible.


Fire is one of the best signals to use in the winter.  First, the smoke will stand out for miles as the lack of thick vegetation will make it easier to spot instead of being obscured by leafy trees and bushes.  Second, there is a lower risk of accidentally starting a forest fire.  The fire will also melt surrounding snow, creating a highly-visible patch of ground that will stand out to search parties. Finally, the flames will be visible from greater distances at night, and you never know when it can catch someone’s eye.


You can make large signals from extra clothing, tarps, blankets or any available bright fabric that you may have on hand.  However, it’s important that you don’t use things that you need to stay warm and dry.  The trick is to make your signals large and distinguishable from the surrounding scenery.  You also want to tie them off to trees or other anchor points to prevent them from being blown around by the wind.

These are just a few ideas to illustrate how many options you have to signal for help in the winter.  Take some time to think about how you can put them to good use, and think about other ideas that can be helpful if you ever need to be rescued.  Don’t forget that you can also use other methods such as mirrors and smoke canisters as well.

The important thing is that you’re prepared for the possibility of being stranded before you head out.  Make sure to bring along items that can be used for a signal, and always let people know where you are going and when you plan on returning just in case you run into problems.