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by Seth Lightcap. posted on December 2013

Recognizing potential avalanche hazards and selecting safe terrain are the best ways to avoid avalanches. That said, it’s not easy to pinpoint every avy hazard and the danger can change unexpectedly as you move though variable terrain and snow conditions.

Wearing an avalanche beacon and knowing how to use it is the most basic safeguard you have against this unknown danger potential. Regardless of how safe you think the snowpack might be, you should always wear your beacon in the backcountry. It’s a no-brainer - the consequences of not having a beacon on should you need it are just too grave.

But just wearing a beacon is not enough. You must know how to use it like your life depended on it! No doubt you’d want your backcountry partner to have the same skills. The above video by Backcountry Access gives a good overview as to how to use a beacon but it’s no substitute for actually practicing with your beacon. Repetitive hands-on timed practice is what hammers home how to use your beacon and will improve your search times.

One of the best places to practice with your beacon is at your local resorts’ Beacon Training Park. Over the last five years, Beacon Training Parks have popped up at most major US resorts and many in Canada and Europe. Beacon Training Parks typically feature 4-8 permanently buried transmitters wired to a central control panel. To change the scenario, just flick the on/off switches on the control panel. Instead of digging holes and reburying beacons all day, you spend your time actually practicing with your beacon.

Early season when the snow conditions aren’t so hot is the perfect time to rally the crew and head into the Beacon Park for some practice. Here’s a list of most resorts in the US where you can find a training park:

California

Heavenly
Kirkwood
Mammoth
Mt. Shasta
Squaw Valley
Sugar Bowl

Colorado
Arapahoe Basin
Aspen Highlands
Beaver Creek
Breckenridge
Loveland Basin
Monarch Mountain Basin
Purgatory/Durango
Powder Horn Resort
Silverton Avalanche School
Steamboat Resort
Telluride
Vail
Winter Park
Wolf Creek

Idaho
Bogus Basin
Grand Targhee

Montana
Big Mountain
Bridger Bowl
Moonlight Basin
Big Sky

Nevada

Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort

Oregon
Mt. Hood
Mt. Bachelor

Utah
Snowbird
Canyons

Washington
Alpental
Alpine Safety Awareness Program
Mt. Baker Ski Area
White Pass Ski Area

Wyoming
Jackson Hole

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