Find the beacons |

Find the beacons

Janet Urquhart

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Aspen Mountain’s new Beacon Basin is ready for use by backcountry enthusiasts looking to practice with their own avalanche beacons.Starting today and continuing each Friday, the basin will be staffed by an experienced backcountry skier from 1-2 p.m. The volunteer – today it will be Steve Miller – will help individuals who’d like some instruction in using the basin. Users can also use the practice park on their own.Located just beyond the upper gondola terminal, toward Richmond Ridge, is the basin – a roughly 50-by-50-foot area marked off with bamboo and rope. Buried inside are four beacons, all wired beneath the snow. Basin users can flip a toggle switch activating up to four beacons to practice searching for transmitters with their own beacons. Users should turn off the beacons when they’re 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, accessible from the top of Aspen Mountain, is a popular destination for backcountry skiers.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 find the beacons, you know where they are.At Aspen Highlands, by the way, the Ski Patrol hides a beacon in a different spot somewhere on the mountain for practice purposes. Individuals are welcome to stop by patrol headquarters atop Loge Peak to find out the beacon’s 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 at 6 p.m. Jan. 16 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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