Every backcountry skier carries an essential pack for their time out in the wilderness, something along the lines of a: Beacon, Probe, Shovel, Energy Bars, Water, I-pod, Phone, Lighter, and obviously some other basic items. The risk of skiing in the backcountry is always at a high.

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Do Electronics Interfere With Beacons?

How to search a person with a beaconEvery experienced backcountry skier should be carrying an essential pack for their time out in the wilderness, something along the lines of a: beacon, probe, shovel, energy bars, water, phone, lighter, and obviously some other basic items. The risk of skiing in the backcountry is always at a high. It’s our safety gear like beacons and probes that will keep you alive if things go south.

Today, many skiers are carrying an excessive amount of electronics into the backcountry which has led to a question among backcountry enthusiasts; can these electronic devices interfere with the beacons flux-line? (A flux-lines is what a beacon produces with an electromagnetic signal allowing a person to identify an accurate spot of a transmitting device)

How A Beacon Works

John Barkhausen, of Alaska Pacific University, organized a field study to test the theory of electrical interference.

“There is no noticeable effect on a transmitting beacon signal from common, powered-on electronics, but when held near a searching beacon, electronics do negatively affect the beacon’s ability to follow a signal”

To summarize, only electronics within close range of a beacon can affect the search. Mr. Barkhausen and the Snow Science Workshop concluded that electronics should be kept 60 cm (24 inches) from your beacon.

 Don Sharaf co-owner at the American Avalanche Institute stated. “The bottom line is, that in most search situations, you can make that distance happen easily. What we tell our students is that it is good to have a cell phone on you, so you can make a call for help. You can always stuff it in a back pocket afterwards; you don’t want to take the time to power it down.”

 

 

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