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Practice Your Beacon Skills. Save a Life

Perfecting your avalanche rescue skills before you head into the backcountry can mean the difference between life and death.
posted: 09/14/2009
Get out your beacon
by Heather Hansman

If you’re in an avalanche, your friends have 15 minutes to find you. That’s it. According to the National Avalanche Center that's the typical survival window for burial victims. That’s not a lot of time. 

Fortunately there is something you can do to work the odds. A study by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center found that professionals, like ski patrollers and backcountry guides, who used their avalanche beacons often were almost 30 percent more likely to find buried people alive. Fact is, the more you practice beacon searching, probing, and shoveling, the better you get, and when the shit hits the fan your rescue skills better be on point. At least that’s what I hope my buddies are thinking.

Work on your avy rescue method and speed during the early season, before the snowpack settles out and when you have time to kill because the skiing isn’t great yet. You can practice beacon searching inbounds too: More and more ski resorts are setting aside space for beacon practice.  The beacon training parks typically have multiple beacons that can be turned on remotely, so searchers can practice single or multiple burial scenarios. Most are free to use and open during the resort's operating hours, so you can practice as much as you want. Here are some ski areas around the country that have places where you can practice your skills.  Backcountry Access, who helps to install some of the parks, has an international list on their website.



  • H20 Guides, Valdez


  • Heavenly
  • Kirkwood
  • Mammoth
  • Mt. Shasta
  • Squaw Valley


  • Arapahoe Basin
  • Aspen Highlands
  • Beaver Creek
  • Breckenridge
  • Monarch Mountain
  • Purgatory
  • Steamboat Resort
  • Telluride
  • Vail
  • Winter Park


  • Bogus Basin
  • Brundage Mountain Snowcat Tours


  • Big Mountain
  • Bridger Bowl
  • Moonlight Basin/Big Sky
  • Trail Head


  • Mt. Hood, The Mazamas


  • Manti Skyline at Big Drift Trailhead
  • Noblett's Trailhead/Uintah Mountains


  • Alpental
  • Alpine Safety Awareness Program
  • Mt. Baker Ski Area
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Mission Ridge
  • The Mountaineers/Snoqualmie Pass
  • Stevens Pass Ski Area
  • White Pass Ski Area


  • Jackson Hole
  • Teton Pass
  • Togwotee Pass




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