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Learning to use an avy beacon

Discussion in 'Snow Talk' started by Cat_Herder, Nov 8, 2019.

  1. Cat_Herder

    Cat_Herder Hard Yards

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    Heading to Japan in Feb and got myself an avy beacon on the off chance I do a bit of side/backcountry, and also just for a bit of extra inbound safety. The problem is I've never used one before, and figure there's no point taking it if I can't even use it...

    What's the best way to get comfortable using it during summer? Just getting someone to hide it in some long grass and treat it the same as if it were buried under the snow?
     
  2. hatto

    hatto One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Do you have a mate with one also.
    Stick one in plastic bag and bury at beach, then search for it
     
  3. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Pass the butter Ski Pass: Gold

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    Learn how to not get caught in an avalanche in the first place, or get a guide.

    25% of victims in the US a killed by trauma before the avalanche stops, then 70% of burials are dead within 30 min. To find and dig out a partner that quickly requires a lot of skill and practice searching, probing and digging. Unless you're good at all three your beacon is essentially a corpse finder, not a safety device. Learn to not end up in a slide in the first place.
     
    #3 Telemark Phat, Nov 8, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
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  4. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Go Pro + Beacon = increased human factors ....
     
  5. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Buy a copy of the bible and read it cover to cover many times.

     
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  6. ralphplough

    ralphplough Addicted

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    Learning to use an avy beacon is easy. Go to the local park with a mate, get him/her to hide his/hers in the grass, and follow the directions on the packaging. Repeat. Then on the last try tie yours to an active dog to really stuff him/her up! Don't forget you need a shovel and probe or the beacon will just tell you where your mate is suffocating.

    Please don't sidle in to OOB areas in Japan with nothing more than a beacon and a cool memory of that time you fooled your mate at beacon practice, there is a real chance of being caught in a slide and dying. Get some guidance, either by doing a course or going with a guide, and be very wary of conditions/forecasts etc. If a slope looks like a pristine bit of steep real close to the resort, there is probably a reason why people have not tracked it up.

    You don't need us lecturing, but do have a bit of a think of the real dangers wherever you go.
     
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  7. DPS Driver

    DPS Driver One of Us

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    Oh c'mon Phat, that's a bit morbid.
     
  8. DPS Driver

    DPS Driver One of Us

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    Get to the beach. Long grass is useless and get there with a friend who also has a beacon. F'n useless if you only have one.

    Practice, practice and practice some more. Make sure you bury it at variable depths and also try into dunes sides as well. Then when you think you're getting good. Think again.

    When you get to the snow, practice, practice and practice some more.

    Learn and understand how the antennas work and how they search. That's the easy bit, then learn proper probing technique and shovelling technique.

    Do a good avi course.
     
  9. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great advice in this thread.

    Can add my recommendation for the Staying Alive book, and also recommend Avy Courses.

    But the most practical option for you if you’re heading off soon for a trip is to book OOBs with a good and respected guide who will run you through using the gear and decision making while ensuring you’re in a relatively safe environment to start out. Some “introduction to backcountry” guided riding.

    Just remember a beacon on its own - as @Telemark Phat says - is just a corpse locator. You need to know how to use it (and use it under pressure), you need skilled riding partners who know what they’re doing, and everyone needs a minimum of shovel and probe in addition to the beacon. There’s a whole thread here on the extras above that minimum that some of us like to take out. But the bottom line is that none of us want to ever have to use it for real - just in practice.

    Learning to avoid risky areas is the most important skill, and that takes time and instruction from those with more experience than oneself.
     
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  10. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Finding someone else to practice with is a good start or have a second one. I have an older transceiver as well as my current one which I have used for a bit of practice.

    As per previous comments though avoiding avalanches is the best bet. And also possibly stating the obvious you will need to be with others who are similarly equipped. It isn't going to be of much use if you are buried on your own. Time is critical. If rescue is more than half an hour away it will be far too late. Then of course a transceiver on it's own is of little value without a probe and shovel to dig someone out.

    Btw as an aside I always refer to these as transceivers as do the NZ heli ops. I think etter describes their function as transmitters and receivers. Beacons tends to be largely an American usage which seems to be common here also. In German they are Lawinenverschüttetensuchgerät or Lawinensuchgerät or just LVS ie. Avalanche Search Instrument.
     
  11. Sbooker

    Sbooker One of Us

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    Some good tips. I’m a novice. Only ever skied patrolled terrain.
    I would think the most important point is to be able to identify snow that may possibly slide. Surely if you only ski stable terrain the chances of needing the other gear is minimal?
    I intend to do a avy course next time I can. I’ll bring my wife and kids with me too.
    Edit - just read Heinz post.
     
  12. DPS Driver

    DPS Driver One of Us

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    Do the course. Your use of words here is testament to your needs.

    Identifying "snow that may possibly slide" is actually a small part of the whole process. An important part but certainly not the be all and end all. You can still have a good days skiing on snow that "may possibly slide". This may sound counter to the whole argument but if guiding operations didn't put guests on snow that may possibly slide they'd go broke. It's about understanding the environment and making decisions based on the available information.
    • Weather obs, both previous days and current, including winds & loading
    • Community communication, avi sites etc, other skiers
    • Visual obs, cross loading, wompfing, small slides, cornices
    • Testing, (pits or not) pole tests, probe tests, ski cutting
    • Route selection -very important skill - identifying safe havens
    • Appropriate travel & ski methods
    • Group dynamic
    • Group communication
    • Objectives and plan B's should objectives not be the right move
    "Chances of needing the other gear is minimal". This is a cracker. Would you say that if you were the one buried, or your wife or your kids? I think not. As with all things in the mountains be prepared and carry the right equipment.

    You never know, you might come across some poor bugger buried and you can use your equipment and save a life. It's not all about you out there. It's about everyone in the area. You have a responsibility to keep all of them safe, as they do you. This might sound weird, how could you possibly do that. One is being properly equipped and prepared and two is understanding and being aware of where you are and who's above and below you. Route finding etc.

    There's more than this but hopefully this gives you a better idea of what's required to travel in the backcountry.
     
  13. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    check out https://kbyg.org/ That is a good starting point at the very least.
    Do a guided tour and ask questions. That will get you out there and give you some understanding or terrain choices.
    Do an avi course. That will scare you enough to want to keep learning.