BEACON PRACTICE

Confident, efficient search skills with a beacon…

When you or your partner is buried, this skill should be as routine as carving a turn. Each season at Gulmarg backcountry skiers and snowboarders are caught in avalanches. In every reported incident, the victim did not anticipate a slope failure. For a group to have the best chances of surviving an avalanche burial, each member should be able to use their beacon at any moment to search for and locate another beacon in under 5 minutes. Simply ask yourself, “How long would I want to be buried?” To really understand what it’s like to be buried in an avalanche, read on…

Perhaps practicing beacon search skills can’t compete with practicing powder turns. So the Gulmarg ski patrol offers an automated training center which is convenient and fun. We refresh the site at the beginning of each week. This site gets a lot of use. Guides, ski patrollers and repeat visitors to Gulmarg all know that regular practice keeps their skills sharp. It’s part of their weekly routine.

The rescue training center is located inside the ski area under the second phase of the gondola.

Start your beacon training at the red flag

This area is known as Mary’s Shoulder.  Training at this site adds all the realism we could produce in an automated resource. The starting point is on a ridge and resembles a common “safe zone” in the alpine region at Gulmarg. Look for a red flag marking the “last seen point”. Looking down the slope towards the gondola from the flag, imagine this avalanche path has captured your partner. Now switch your beacon to search mode and search the path. Pinpoint a signal and use your avalanche probe to confirm the location. You will know you have found the right spot if your probe “strikes” a 50cm square board buried beneath the snow approximately 50cm deep. Please do not dig up the locator.

So, what is it like going for a scary ride in an avalanche?

… and then becoming buried for what seems a lifetime (but is only a few minutes)?
Watch this:
(note: as you listen, the disturbing sound you are hearing is the buried victim’s breathing)