Should you wear an avalanche beacon inbounds?

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by Nathanvg, Sep 15, 2018.

  1. Nathanvg

    Nathanvg Putting on skis Skier

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    Should you wear an avalanche beacon in bounds? Ultimately each person needs to make his own choice but I thought I’d provide my logic since a lot of the discussions seem to not be based on empirical evidence.

    Avalanches inside ski areas are extremely rare
    Less than one person per year dies due to an inbounds avalanche. The average risk of a skier dying in an avalanche per year is 1 in 9 million (60M skier days / .7 deaths a year * 10 skier days per year) For comparison, you’re much more likely to die in your car, in the pool, falling down, crossing the street, etc.

    Skiers who ski more or ski more runs in avalanche terrain have an elevated risk but even with 1000 more risky skiing, you’re still much more likely to die in your car, in the pool, falling down, crossing the street, etc.

    There are much higher risks we should be focusing on. For example, your odds of dying of skin cancer this year are about 1 in 25 thousand and regular use of SPF 15 reduces risk by 40%. Alternatively, it is more cost effective to reduce risk of death by bring a lifejacket with you to the pool or book a hotel room on the ground floor or reduce your car use by 1%.

    The key to surviving an avalanche is not to get in one
    54% of people who are buried in an avalanche with a beacon die. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15772502) Beacons only account for a 14% increase in survival rate. Thankfully, ski areas are very good at mitigating avalanche risk per the stats above.

    My opinion is rules that require beacon use in steep parts of ski areas are a bad idea.
    1. Ironically, more people die skiing the groomers than the steeps. These rules may very well lead to more deaths.
    2. Benefit of beacons is a small reduction of a very low risk.
    3. Skiing is expensive enough without more expensive gear
    4. Beacons (like other safety devices) lead to a false sense of safety which promotes riskier behavior.

    I'm sure others will disagree with my logic and that's ok.
     
  2. Jim McDonald

    Jim McDonald My Sunset View Skier

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    Just curious, but do you wear a helmet when you ski?
     
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  3. SkiNurse

    SkiNurse Spontaneous Christy Pugski Ski Tester

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    I can think of at least a dozen inbound avalanches that have happened in Colorado in the last 10 years. To name two? A couple of years ago, a group of people was caught in Montezuma Bowl at Abasin and a person died on Pali at Abasin a few years before.

    There have been times when I have worn a beacon inbounds and a few times when I didn't but felt I should've. Loveland, Abasin, Vail, Highlands, Jackson Hole, Alta...to name a few. Usually, it had to do with the amount of snow that had fallen the day/night before, weather etc. Was it to take unnecessary chances? No. I wasn't skiing anywhere on any of those mountains that I don't normally ski. Sometimes you just have to take safety up a notch

    PS I wear a helmet.
     
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  4. 4ster

    4ster Now with more photos! Instructor

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    ^ this is the only realistic answer.
    DF1042B5-2B08-4B38-8D3A-BA1E66CAA363.jpeg
     
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  5. KingGrump

    KingGrump Most Interesting Man In The World Team Gathermeister

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    Certainly do. For Mamie and I, it's more a fashion statement than a safety device. :cool:

    Beacon wise. We haven;t wore ours in the last couple of years. Didn't feel the requirement for it where we were skiing. We do travel with a full kit but seldom ski with it.
    I know a few skiers that have theirs on every day, other who wore one on deep days and other who never bothered. Just a routine thing for mots.

    Requirement by ski area is usually used more as a selection criteria to weed out the riff raff.
     
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  6. Pequenita

    Pequenita Getting off the lift Skier

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    I do on storm days. So do the people I ski with.
     
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  7. luliski

    luliski Out on the slopes Skier

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    There was an in-bounds avalanche at Squaw Valley last March. One buried snowboarder was lucky that some part of his gear was visible and he was dug out after being buried for 6 minutes. I don't know if a beacon would have helped him if he hadn't been visible.
     
  8. Pequenita

    Pequenita Getting off the lift Skier

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    A beacon would have helped him, as well as RECCO technology in his clothing, but visibility is one of the other "clues" that AAIRE 1 courses instruct witnesses to look for. The visibility is important in a rescue because unless someone else nearby is wearing a beacon, it doesn't matter if you are wearing one. And none of it matters in a rescue unless you have a way to access the person and dig them out.
     
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  9. Ken_R

    Ken_R Living the Dream Skier

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    If you are skiing alone then the beacon might help in the recovery of your body.
     
  10. luliski

    luliski Out on the slopes Skier

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    Right, so if you're wearing a beacon, ride with a partner and have shovels too. I'm just thinking in the case of this snowboarder, if he'd been alone (I don't think he was), and he hadn't had part of his gear visible, a beacon may not have helped him when ski patrol arrived. Unless they have a general idea where someone was, isn't it hard to narrow in on a search with a beacon?
     
  11. 4ster

    4ster Now with more photos! Instructor

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    There was also one at Mammoth last season around the same time. I am also aware of another inbounds incident last season where transceivers certainly would have helped in the rescue.

    I won’t say if it’s a good idea to wear transceivers in bounds or not. I will say that my beacon is on any day patrol conducts avalanche mitigation work. Often with a shovel and probe, usually at least probe poles. I do know that a beacon search is the first thing patrol does when there is an avalanche, even if there is only the slightest possibility of a burial.


    The area that I do most of my skiing has a few gated avalanche control areas where my vote would be to require Beacon, probe and shovel. Most of these areas border the ski area boundary and also lead into major avalanche terrain areas and traps just outside the boundary. As it is now, it is pretty easy to get into this terrain and over your head without even knowing it.

    The issue I see with having these requirements is that all of a sudden you have a bunch of people going out and buying equipment without any education, just so they can access these areas, inducing a false sense of security. If there is an incident and you have a bunch of people with their beacons sending a signal, you have rendered them useless in an actual search.
    6087FE60-0E64-4849-A5E8-7DD84463BCD4.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018
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  12. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    I ski in bounds pretty much exclusively. I keep thinking about getting into backcountry but never seem to find the time. That being said, I don't currently own a beacon(although I used to have a pieps). Perhaps its time to think about getting one again. It usually comes up when we get the BCA clinic from the rep in the fall.
     
  13. Pequenita

    Pequenita Getting off the lift Skier

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    That's pretty much always the case - you look for clues of where the skier/boarder could be, and you start a beacon search based on that best guess. It's easier, theoretically, if gear is visible, but that also could be a red herring because avalanches pull gear -- including clothing -- off of people, and gear can wind up not close to the person. If you have no idea where the skier/boarder is, you would basically start your search at the point where they were last seen (what you or witnesses saw) and search the width of the slide before moving up or down. Because time is always of the essence, having clothing still on him be visible was definitely helpful. A beacon alone would have been helpful, too, but it would also suggest he would have been deeper in the snow, which is a factor against survival.
     
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  14. luliski

    luliski Out on the slopes Skier

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    What is the range of a beacon or the RECCO reflectors? If someone is skiing alone and there is an avalanche (inbounds) that ski patrol responds to, but nobody knows if there was anyone on the slope or not. How quickly could a slide area be scanned for beacons?

    If someone is skiing with a beacon, when should it be turned off so as not to cause interference?
     
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  15. 4ster

    4ster Now with more photos! Instructor

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    Beacons only pick up a signal from about 40 to 60 meters.
    Recco reflectors can be picked up from the air but not everyone/area uses the system or has detectors.
    http://recco.com/the-recco-system
    By the time it is implemented, it may be too late. Successful searches usually happen immediately with beacons & well rehearsed partners.
    Patrol is usually well practiced & pretty efficient. Depending on a lot of depends, location, size of slide, current weather & their own safety, 5 minutes is not out of the question.
    Beacons should be turned to receive ASAP when burials are suspected. Also, cell phones can interfere with the signal.
    slide debris.jpg
     
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  16. Pequenita

    Pequenita Getting off the lift Skier

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    This would be why it's not a great idea to wear a beacon if one doesn't know how to use it. I'd say that if skiers/boarders already own a beacon and know how to use it, it is not going to hurt to wear one in bounds as they feel necessary. But I wouldn't buy a beacon for the sole purpose of using it to ski on storm days.
     
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  17. Near Nyquist

    Near Nyquist At the edge of instability Skier

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    I am usually beeping on those huge days, even with avy control it’s prudent to have em on.
    Many of the full time staff at Alpine Meadows turn em on even before they drive up alpine meadows road and don’t turn em off till they exit onto 89. They regard the avalanche risk as that extreme and they work most of the time in the lodge. Kinda drives home the point for me
     
  18. Primoz

    Primoz Out on the slopes Skier

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    One thing to consider... if you ever come on this side of ocean (Europe), or you are actually living over here (like I do), then there's at least one thing that is really different here. In US you have inbound territory that is avi controlled (still nowhere near 100% safe). In Europe we have ski courses and and ski trails, that's either groomed trail or marked trail that's somehow avi controlled. As soon as you steep out of either of these two, even if just for 2m, you are in non-avi controlled area. This basically means you are out there on your own. On your own responsibility and you are the only one responsible for your own safety. Here ski areas need to protect courses and lifts from avalanches, but they don't need to protect any terrain outside of ski courses. So going for lift assisted powder skiing you need exactly same equipment and preparation as if you would go for real backcountry kilometers away from civilization.
    So maybe, you might not need avi gear in US, but if you travel over here and plan skiing anything but groomers, do have full one. In certain parts it's actually against the law leaving groomers without avi gear.
    As for original question and considering it's about US territory... I would still say yes you do need it. The only time you are 100% safe from avi is when there's no snow. But I guess you don't ski that time :) As soon as there's snow, no avi control can make terrain 100% safe. And as soon as it's only' 90% safe, it's time to take care of that danger. At least in my opinion.
     
  19. squill

    squill Getting on the lift Skier

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    On storm days, yes, but if I go into a lodge or bar I'll take it off and turn my phone back on.
     
  20. Guy in Shorts

    Guy in Shorts Tree Psycho Skier

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    Swimming off Truro yesterday without a beacon. Beach 5 miles to the South of us a Great White attack resulted in the first fatality in Mass. in 82 years. Makes the simple act of swimming in the ocean exciting. Dive in and take your chances.
     

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