Buyer’s guide for a beacon suited to your needs
The beacon or transceiver is probably the most iconic safety feature for freeriders or tourers. Coupled with a shovel and a probe, these 3 elements are mandatory if you want to have a chance to save somebody burried in an avalanche. The beacon also emits a signal in case you are the one who gets burried. You can switch from emission to reception very easily and very quickly.
How does a beacon work?
As soon as you switch on your beacon, it begins to emit a signal in all directions at a 457Khz frequency thanks to several antennas. This frequency sticks to a norm meaning all beacons from all brands are using the same frequency and can work altogether. The signal range varies depending on the models between 40m and 60m. In case of an avalanche, there are 2 possible situations. Either you are in the avalanche, burried under the surface, or you are out of it and your friends are under it. In the first case, unfortunately there is not much you can do except wait to be rescued. In the second situation however, you will need to switch your beacon into its reception mode and start searching. Begin where you last saw your friend and slowly ski down doing parallel lines. There shouldn’t be more than 20m between every line. As soon as you get a signal, your beacon will guide you to the victim quickly. Then comes the probe. Probing helps you pinpoint the exact location of the victim. And finally the shovel. Shoveling the snow is a lot faster than using your hands. As a reminder, everything is a matter of time. It is considered that after 15 minutes spent under the snow, chances of surviving drop drastically, so make sure you have what it takes to save your friends. Modern beacons have significantly improved and are pretty intuitive to use but they remain a device on battery so always make sure the battery is charged before you go out.
What are the differences between a beacon and another?
When you see the difference of price between models it seems legit to ask this question. Here are the answers. In terms of signal emission, differences aren’t huge. Every beacon work well and deliver good performance. Special mention to Ortovox though with their Smart Antenna technology. It allows the beacon to switch to the antenna that has the best position for transmitting depending on its position under the avalanche. But the real differences are visible in search mode. High-end beacons will make searching easier with an arrow pointing to the direction of the victim and the approximate distance to it. There are also multi-victim options. If several skiers get caught in an avalanche, this allows you to locate the first victim, have your friends working on it and continue searching for the second victim. It is rare, but it happens. These type of beacons is more commonly used by guides and core skiers. In any case, even if you have the latest beacon with the Smart Antenna and the Multi Victim detector, the best pretection is caution. If avalanche risks are high, you’d rather postpone your session than using your beacon to save a friend.
Discover our selection of beacons and find the one that suits you best!