Beacon training park helps backcountry enthusiasts practice avalanche safety

Local News

MINTURN, Colo. (KDVR) — The White River National Forest’s new beacon training park outside Minturn gives the public an easily accessible opportunity to practice using avalanche transceivers, a critical piece of safety equipment for winter backcountry recreation.

“Record numbers of people venturing into the backcountry, and the need for winter backcountry safety education is higher than ever,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “Avalanche transceivers are key to finding avalanche victims as soon as possible, but they are only effective if people know how to use them.”

The beacon training park is situated a short climb up the slope at the Mountain Meadow Trailhead on U.S. 24, which is about 1⁄4 mile from the Interstate 70 Minturn exit.

The park, which was developed in partnership with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, has eight buried transmitters that can be turned on and off from a small control panel. This allows for multiple search scenarios to familiarize people with using their avalanche transceivers and probing the snow for victims. It’s a self-operating system open all day to the public.

“Beacon parks have traditionally been located at ski areas, where general public access may be limited to pass holders,” Veldhuis said. “This accessible public location should help encourage more people to become proficient using avalanche transceivers, which can help save lives.”

If headed to the park you do not need a reservation, but you should bring your beacon, probe, shovel and backcountry buddies.

“You can’t always get a group of people together to simulate complex burial situations, so having a beacon park available where you can go and practice your skills on a routine basis is hugely helpful,” said Jay Christianson with Vail Mountain Rescue. “Having a beacon park is a phenomenal tool to have people practice these perishable skills.”

Also new this year, you’ll find a new set of beacon checkpoints at Vail Pass that tell you if your beacon has signal and is properly working.

Before heading into the backcountry, check the avalanche forecast. More information about being safe in the backcountry this winter is available on at www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.

So far this year, the number of people killed in avalanches in Colorado has already surpassed the number of total people killed last season.

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