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Safety Week: Beacon Fundamentals

The most important aspect of beacon fundamentals is simple: practice. So we headed to the beacon park at Jackson Hole with Mark Carter to run through search technique on the ORTOVOX 3+ avalanche transceiver. Scroll to the bottom to learn more about ORTOVOX's beacon retirement program and to receive $75 towards the 3+. 

It's imperative to get to know your own beacon, its functions, and how to switch to search quickly. Practice search drills regularly throughout the season and repeat the process when you buy a new beacon. Here, we break down the search process into four phases:

Signal Acquisition:

Once you switch your beacon to search, it’s time to find a signal. Depending on the model of your beacon, you will start receiving a signal from 40-60 meters out. There are a variety of different search methods depending on the size of the avalanche and the number of searches, but guides recommend remembering one simple method: head to toward the the last known sighting and zig-zag across the avalanche path at 20-meter intervals until your beacon starts beeping, meaning it has acquired a signal.

During a coarse search, don't worry about following the arrows exactly. Move toward the stronger signal. Tyler Gutierrez photo. 

Coarse Search:

You should be moving quickly through this phase in order to acquire a stronger signal. Head in the general direction of the stronger signal (lower distance), using the arrows as a guide.

When your beacon registers a signal under 10 meters, slow down. Tyler Gutierrez photo. 

Fine Search:

When you hit under 10 meters, slow down. You should still be on skis or a snowboard, but if you rush this step, you might pass the victim before the beacon can register and catch up with your movement. Keep the arrow in the middle of the beacon while holding it in the same orientation. Follow the flux line to the victim.

Get close to the snow and drop your beacon to your knee during your grid search. Tyler Gutierrez photo.

Grid Search:

Once you receive your lowest reading, get your beacon as close to the snow as possible while keeping the orientation of the beacon the same. Using the grid method demonstrated above by Mark Carter, find the lowest reading, mark the spot, and begin probing there.

Ready to upgrade your beacon? Check out ORTOVOX's beacon retirement program here. Bring in any old beacon to one of the participating ORTOVOX dealers and get $75 towards a new ORTOVOX 3+ .

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