Snow and Avalanche Center Transceiver Training Centers Open

Two related articles follow:

  • BCA Opens "Beacon Basin" in Colorado
  • Mammut Opens Training Centre in Switzerland

BCA Opens "Beacon Basin" in Colorado

Loveland Basin, Colo. - Backcountry Access opened a state-of-the-art avalanche beacon training site in November, 2002, at Loveland Basin ski area. Designed and bat by Dwayne Paynton of Winlaw, B.C., the site will be used to train avalanche educators and advanced beacon users.

Nicknamed "Beacon Basin:' the site features 14 permanently buried transmitters, each separately hard-wired to a central control panel. The panel consists of 14 switches for turning the transmitters on and off, plus a remote power supply consisting of six alkaline D cells.

By permanently burying the beacons and controlling them remotely, trainers can eliminate the time-consuming process of excavating and re-burying transmitters between searches. It is especially effective for practicing multiple and deep burials, which are the most time-consuming scenarios of all - and which require the most practice.

"Even with today's easy-to-use transceiver technology, there is still no substitute for practice" said BCA Vice President Bruce Edgerly. "By providing a super efficient training opportunity like this, we hope to raise the bar on transceiver education in our region." He said BCA hopes to expand the program next year to include sites in other regions of North America and Europe. Access to Beacon Basin is generally limited to those who have been qualified by BCA to operate it. However, the company has organized numerous public training sessions at the site.

For more info see or call (303) 4171345.

Mammut Opens Training Centre in Switzerland

The Zinal Ski Area in the state of Wallis in Switzerland is exploring new ways of avalanche prevention with an initiative sponsored by Mammut, the Swiss mountain sports specialist. An Avalanche Training Centre that was recently opened offers a comprehensive exhibit on avalanche risk assessment and a permanent training installation for practicing the search by means of avalanche beacons. Created by the Zinal Ski Area, Mammut AG, the St. Imier engineering college and Girsberger Elektronik AG, it is Europe's first permanent beacon practice site.

The training site is located in a triangular area of about 100 meters on each side and on a steep slope. It represents a typical avalanche runout zone. Within this area, there are 16 avalanche beacon transmitters buried at various depths. These transmitters have been designed to remain in the snow for a full season before the batteries need to be replaced. The transmitters can be activated and deactivated via radio signals by means of a control unit. This allows for very realistic practice, since the trainees will not know about the location of the buried transmitters. Furthermore, the transmitter(s) to be activated may be selected at random by the control unit. Multiple burial situations are thus easy to simulate and practice.

Apart from the fixed control unit which is powered by solar cells, a portable battery powered unit is also available. It comes in a robust plastic case. In addition to the manual control of each transmitter, it offers computer selected search scenarios. A built in timer can introduce timing restrictions, so at least some of the stress that exists in real situations is simulated.

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