Avalanche safety is not just about carrying a beacon into the backcountry. Aside from reading backcountry forecasts, knowing the warning signs and picking safe routes, having mastered the use of the beacon, or transceiver, is key to locating and reaching a companion in time should an avalanche occur. It's not something you learn in a day - and like most things, practice increases the chance of success.To that end, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area hosts two days of backcountry and avalanche rescue training and education on Friday and Saturday.
Friday's event is a daylong seminar (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on search-and-rescue techniques. Facilitated by local experts from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), Arapahoe Basin Ski Patrol and patrollers from neighboring ski areas, the workshop features classroom instruction and on-mountain scenarios, including tutorials on modern search-and-rescue technologies, emergency care and extraction and evacuation. The workshop costs $50 and is limited to 50 participants with previous backcountry experience. Proceeds benefit the CAIC, which provides forecasting and public education surrounding avalanches in Colorado (http://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php). A spaghetti dinner served with New Belgium beer follows the event at 5 p.m.; the dinner costs $15 and is open to the public.
On Saturday, A-Basin hosts its 11th annual Beacon Bowl, in which participants race to find beacons buried in the snow on mountain, simulating an avalanche search and rescue. Activities take place at the base of the Lenawee Mountain Lift, starting with beacon clinics from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by an avalanche dog and snow pit demonstration at 1:15. The contest itself is divided into two divisions - recreational and professional. Registration and check-in start at 8 a.m. in the A-frame lodge. The $25 fee includes entry, a raffle ticket, a slice of pizza and a beer at the aprs ski party and the chance to win prizes from Spyder. The party starts at 3:30 following the on-snow activities. Open to the public, it includes a live auction with items from Black Diamond, BCA, Dakine, SkiLogik and more, with proceeds benefiting the CAIC."Although our daily focus is on our in-bounds terrain, we're aware of the growing popularity of backcountry touring," said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin's chief operating officer. "We want to provide our guests with the resources to ski and ride safely. It is important for people to understand the differences between in-bounds and backcountry skiing."