Avalanche safety course open to all

(Photo by Hanna Fox) A picture of the snow-covered Grand Teton Mountain Range. The avalanche beacon course will inform people how these transceivers can be used to save lives.

Avalanche beacons, also known as avalanche transceivers, are carried by individuals who are at risk of being buried in an avalanche while doing outdoor activities such as skiing or snowshoeing. These devices transmit radio signals that other Avalanche beacons can receive, to better locate an individual if they are buried in the snow.

“It’s a common misconception that we don’t have avalanches out in the Snowies; that the mountains aren’t big enough, but they definitely are,” Tylynn Smith, an Outdoor Employee studying petroleum engineering with a minor in outdoor leadership, said. “They are definitely avey [avalanche] terrain. We are so close to Northern Colorado where there’s a ton of avey [avalanche].”

Beacons send out location signals. If someone is buried under the snow then the beacon can be changed to search mode. Lights will also indicate which direction, as well as how far away the buried person is.

“So, the Beacon, they’ve like evolved throughout the years and are advanced now,” Smith said. “So it’s basically a pulse radio signal. It has an antenna on both ends and it send[s] out a pulse radio signal in the form of flux lines.”

The Avalanche Beacon course offered by the Outdoor Program is designed for people who do not have any prior experience with avalanche safety training or rescue beacons, or if you’re looking to freshen up your skills, giving participants the opportunity to use avalanche beacons outdoors.

“Anyone can attend it, but [we anticipate] people with a background in skiing, snowmobiling, backcountry snowboarding,” Jo Ferrell, a senior studying nutrition who will be running the event, said.

Equipment will be provided, but if you have your own avalanche beacon it is suggested you bring it. There is a limit of 15 participants with a charge of $5 for students and $7 for faculty and staff.

“We’ve been running this for at least, seven plus years, from before I was there,” Dave Bumgarner, the graduate assistant at the outdoor program, said. “It is an introduction to avalanche safety gear primarily using a beacon. It is one of the essential safety pieces to backcountry ski, travel in the backcountry and winter backcountry activities.”

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