2017 Beacon Bowl is back at the Basin on Saturday | SummitDaily.com

2017 Beacon Bowl is back at the Basin on Saturday

Phil Lindeman
A patroller and avy dog dig for a beacon at the 2016 Beacon Bowl at Arapahoe Basin. The annual fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center returns to A-Basin on Saturday, Feb. 4 with the contest, a silent auction, raffles and the obligatory after-party.
Dave Camara / Special to the Daily |

2017 Beacon Bowl

What: The 15th edition of an avalanche rescue competition and après party, hosted by the Arapahoe Basin ski patrol to benefit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

When: Saturday, Feb.4 from 9 a.m. to late

Where: Arapahoe Basin

Cost: $20

Registration fees are the same for all three divisions and include the contest, a raffle ticket, one beverage and a slice of pizza. Along with the competition, patrollers host free on-mountain beacon demos from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and an avy dog demo at 10:30 a.m. To sign up for the bowl, stop by the A-Frame lodge from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturday or see the calendar event at arapahoebasin.com.

Tony Cammarata wants everyone to remember who won the Arapahoe Basin Beacon Bowl in 2013.

It was him.

“I work with a bunch of guys who tend to be competitive when it comes to everything, even rescue skills,” said Cammarata, director of ski patriol at A-Basin and an 18-year veteran of the industry. “We have weekly beacon competitions for beer and donuts, that kind of thing.”

For the past 15 years, Cammarata and his team at A-Basin have brought that kind of playful competition to the masses with an annual search-and-rescue contest. Dubbed the Beacon Bowl, it’s a semi-serious cross between the Super Bowl and World Series that’s made for ski patrollers, by ski patrollers to test avalanche rescue skills.

The 2017 Beacon Bowl returns to the base of Lenawee Mountain lift on Feb. 4, with divisions for professionals, recreational skiers and juniors, and the ski patrol director can’t wait to test his skills — and past title — against smack-talking patrollers from resorts across Colorado.

“Bragging rights for a year is a pretty cool thing to have, especially when there are so many talented ski patrollers,” Cammarata said. “I love the fact that Breck and Keystone and Copper send their best. If you needed a rescue in the backcountry, these are the people you want coming to get you.”

What started as a fun-and-funky fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has now ballooned to include two competitions — the morning prelims and afternoon finals — and a slew of other distractions, including a silent auction, vendor tents, gear giveaways and, of course, adorable avalanche dog demos. Last year, the event raised close to $13,000 for Friends of CAIC, the organization’s advocacy group, and officials expect more of the same this season. The Beacon Bowl has grown each year since it started, drawing nearly 30 patrollers and 15 Average Joes for the 2016 competition.

“This is our day to celebrate some of the skills we practice as a patrol year-round,” Cammarata said. “Not only do we get to show off our skills — show off our beacon skills, the avalanche dog skills, our rescue skills — but we’re doing it for a great cause, and CAIC is so important to what we do as a ski patrol. It’s a great relationship for us.”

But what is it?

Good question. Like the name says, the Beacon Bowl is built around that most important piece of avalanche gear: a beacon, the chest-mounted transceiver anyone needs (along with a probe, shovel and partner) before heading into the backcountry.

Things get started around 9:15 a.m. at the base of Lenawee with the qualifying round. All competitors must find and probe a beacon hidden somewhere in the snow near the vendor tents at the base. There’s no digging in this round — just find the beacon and mark the spot. The whole thing is timed to determine seeding, and it’s tougher than you’d expect. In the past, the best Beacon Bowlers have found the mark in less than a minute.

From there, the top-three competitors in the pro, rec and junior divisions move on to the finals at 1 p.m. For this round, organizers bury two beacons for finalists to locate and uncover. The clock stops only after both have been recovered — as little as three minutes for elite Beacon Bowlers.

The event is open to anyone and everyone for $20, which includes bowl entry, a raffle ticket, one beverage and one slice of pizza at the after-party, because this is A-Basin and you know there will be an after-party. That gets started around 3 p.m. in the main village area, with food, vendors and the silent auction, emceed by 2013 Beacon Bowl champ Cammarata himself.

“This has really picked up steam along the way,” Cammarata said of the bowl. “It started as a small event — we weren’t sure if it was going to survive — but now it has grown and people really support the event.”

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