The Truth About Skiing

Avalanche beacon – the necessary part of a freeriding

Analogue avalanche beeperWhether you call it a tracker, a avalanche beacon, a beeper, a Pieps, an ARVA or an LVS, these are all basically various forms of avalanche transmitters that, along with your shovel and probe, are essential kit for any freeride or backcountry expedition. These are basically small pieces of equipment weighing 200 grams that are tied around your waist and shoulders, immediately below your jacket. They’re used for locating people that have been buried by an avalanche. They emit a unique “beep” on a frequency of 457 kHz during normal use, and they can be used in a different mode for locating buried victims. In order to find one, the buried victim would need to have his or her own avalanche beacon that’s set to transmit a signal. They’re quite expensive devices, but every freeride enthusiast must own one, without any exceptions. However, it’s not enough simply to own an avalanche beacon – you also need to know how to use it properly. Even the most expensive and well-designed avalanche beacon on the market would be useless if you didn’t learn how to use it properly.

Avalanche beacon types

Old analogue beacon

There are two types of beacons – analogue and digital. Analogue avalanche beacon emits a “beep” sound as a signal, which the rescuer then uses to estimate the distance of the victim. Apart from the sound signal, they can feature a luminous light that indicates the signal strength. In contrast to analogue, a digital avalanche beacon shows the direction and distance of the buried victim, and usually also emits a sound. They can also work in cooperation with one another if they’re set to the same frequency (457 kHz). Analogue avalanche beacon tend to have a slightly further range than their digital counterparts, but they’re far more complicated to use in emergency situations, such as whilst searching for a person who’s been buried by an avalanche.

Nowadays, digital beacons are in widespread production and use, and with these, searching the terrain becomes much easier and quicker. Beacons can also be divided into subcategories, depending on the number of installed antennas. You can buy avalanche beacon with one, two or even three antennas (as of the 2011 season there are even beacons with four antennas – the Pieps Vector). When buying one, make sure you choose one with at least three antennas because it can draw more information from the signal, and can more precisely indicate the direction and distance of a buried victim.

How to choose the right avalanche transceiver

As avalanche beacon technology has significantly improved lately, there are several beacons showed up on the market. The most important feature of an avalanche beacon is its operating frequency. Older beacons do not use standard frequence, so it could be a problem. You must learn how to use it and your companions must also have novel models.

Ortovox beaconFor example, The Ortovox 3 plus is a digital avalanche beacon compatible with all beacons transmitting at 457 KHz, which is standard frequency. It is extremely important to have a transceiver like this if you go on any kind of freeriding.

If you are a professional and extreme freerider, then you must have a professional Avalanche Beacon. This one combines the best of digital and analog technologies. With them you can locate the victim faster because it has a microprocessor that enables conversion of analog signals to a digital that gives you exact distance of the buried freerider.

If you are a backcountry skier, you will definitely need an avalanche beacon. Freeriding as you all know is a very dangerous sport. You could often be exposed to avalanches, injuries or extreme weather conditions. That is why you need to take avalanche safety measures and buy necessary equipment. In The Truth about Skiing and Snowboarding you can find all that you need and how to prepare properly for this lovely extreme snow sporting. Here you can learn how to use beacons and save your buddies.

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