Beacon-practice park opens on Ajax | AspenTimes.com

Beacon-practice park opens on Ajax

Janet Urquhart

Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen Mountain’s new Beacon Basin is ready for use by backcountry enthusiasts looking to practice with their own avalanche beacons.

Starting Dec. 29 and continuing each Friday, the practice park will be staffed by an experienced backcountry skier from 1 to 2 p.m. The volunteer ” this week it will be Steve Miller ” will be on hand to help individuals who’d like some instruction in using the basin. Users can also practice beacon searches on their own.

Located just beyond the upper gondola terminal, heading toward Richmond Ridge, is the basin ” a roughly 50-by-50-foot area marked off with bamboo and rope. Inside are four buried beacons, all wired beneath the snow. Basin users can flip a toggle switch to activate one, two, three or all four beacons and practice searching for the transmitters with their own beacons. Users should turn the beacons off when their finished.

“It’s a place where people can practice with their transceivers before going out into the backcountry,” said Gary Gleason, a member of Powder To The People. “The end motivation is to help improve safety in the backcountry.”

Richmond Ridge, accessed from the top of Aspen Mountain, is a popular destination for backcountry skiers.

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Powder To The People is a local, grass-roots group of advocates for backcountry access, education and etiquette. Beacon Basin is a cooperative effort of the nonprofit group, along with the Aspen Skiing Co. and Backcountry Access, a gear manufacturer that donated the beacon array and makes the Tracker DTC transceiver.

Eventually, the organizers hope to upgrade to a wireless system of multiple beacons so each device can be moved around within the basin, according to Gleason. The current setup is stationary ” once you’ve found the beacons once, you’ll know where they are.

By the way, the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol hides a beacon in a different spot daily somewhere on the mountain for practice purposes. Individuals are welcome to stop by patrol headquarters atop Loge Peak to find out the beacon’s general locale and then practice finding it (just leave it buried where the patrol put it if you do locate it).

FYI: Powder to the People will hold its next avalanche update of the season on Jan. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Rio Grande Plaza (the old Aspen Youth Center). Brian McCall of the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center will be on hand to discuss area snowpack conditions.

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