Know your equipment

Get a beacon for Christmas? Let’s pause for a moment to revisit a story from last winter.

A backcountry skier befuddled rescuers for two months after flipping on his personal locator beacon every time he headed out for a few turns. He thought it was an avalanche beacon. Avy beacons transmit a signal that lets your friends find you if you’re buried. They don’t emit a distress signal to alert rescue crews that you’re in danger and need assistance; PLBs do.

Here’s the Denver Post’s story on it.

The PLB was a birthday present, and he never read the instructions.

Post-Christmas, with presents on the brain, I got thinking about this guy and called avy beacon-maker Backcountry Access (which is located right here in Boulder — no beacon needed to find them) to see if they’d ever heard of this sort of thing happening elsewhere. Bruce Edgerly was nice and indulged my silly question, saying it was the only case he’d heard of and wasn’t expecting to hear a similar story after the holidays now.

What they do hear about, Bruce said, was people who get a beacon for Christmas and end up using and needing it immediately. Then he added that it’s good to make products that are easy to use right out of the box.

So here’s my holiday-slash-backcountry skiing PSA: Please read the instructions before you head out if you’re not already familiar with a beacon! Also, do the test with your friends before you start skinning uphill to make sure everyone’s beacons are working properly — that test would’ve stopped PLB guy in his tracks.

The CAIC is showing a lot of orange on the map right now. Let’s be safe out there…and know your equipment!

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