Wait a second..there is some snow here!

One might think that you need snow to do a decent avalanche course.  Au contrair!  This is a perfect time to prep for the massive snows that are coming soon (I know the weather forecast hasn’t budged yet, but I just washed my car and burned every pair of skis in my quiver…it’s coming).

The truth is, making sure you’re savvy with a beacon gets pushed to the way side all too often.  Ironically, most of the time it’s because we’re too busy rippin pow, shoveling, drinking, sleeping and repeating to set aside time for practice with a beacon.  Practicing with your beacon and coordinating a rescue with your backcountry partners can’t be stressed enough.  Even these “silly” scenarios in grassy meadows make rescuer’s blood pressure rise when they have to find a buried mock victim and the clock is ticking.

You probably think you know how to use your beacon.  But when was the last time you actually practiced with it?  When was the last time you had some mentored practice going through the whole process of a rescue?  Things go wrong often in practice, and that’s exactly why we do it.  Figuring out these little glitches in a relatively low stress environment will make you a hundred times more relaxed in a real rescue.  I didn’t say you’d be relaxed – you’d be freaking out in a real situation – but it will make you more relaxed and confident with your skills.  Knowing you have the ability to find a friend when the shQ#$t hits the fan makes a big difference.

PNH Heli Ski Guide Tucker Patton gives the lowdown on terrain selection in the classroom.


Get some help from the pros helps.  There are plenty of avalanche professionals, guide services, and guides in the Tahoe basin that have companion rescue wired.  Get one of your bros in the industry to critique your technique or break down and pay for a companion rescue course.  They’re reasonably priced, just a single day in length and will bring your rescue skills to the next level…where they should be if you ever need to use them.


Lel Tone, fastest beacon searcher this side of the Mississippi, captures students with a story of a rescue she was involved with while helicopter ski guiding in Alaska.


The long and short is DON”T TAKE AVALANCHE COMPANION RESCUE FOR GRANTED!  If you need to do a rescue in the field, you won’t be bummed that you spent too much time practicing with your beacon or your touring partners.  Even if it is still June-uary, take some of that all-too-plentiful extra time on your hands and get ready for the real deal!  The white stuff will come!

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