Our yearly On Snow event has come and gone, and we have been stuck in a seemingly snowless weather pattern. While it looks like a refresh may be headed our way, incase it doesn't live up to our hopes and dreams, and you are looking to keep your avy skills in tip top shop, we are back again with an updated list of Beacon Training parks. (Even if the snow does pan out, we still recommend you continue reading and honing in those beacon skills.) While we all live for the moments when we can play in the snowy mountains that we call our backyard and get that perfect spray on our powder turns, it is important that we are constantly practicing how we can stay safe in the backcountry. Whether you've got decades of experience under belt, you took your AIARE Level 2 last year, or are just getting started in your venture to ditch the lifts, staying on top of your avalanche skills should be a high priority, There are many ways to make sure you are keeping your avalanche knowledge fresh in your brain & dialing in your rescue skills. Practicing your beacon skills is right up there as something that you should be doing every season (multiple times) and a lot of different organizations in the state are trying their hardest to make it easily accessible to you. Throughout the state there are a number of Avalanche Beacon Training Parks just waiting for you to come tromp all over them!
Beacon searches are not something you do once and call it good, you are never an expert and never immune from making mistakes. The pros practice them at least weekly. The non-pros but avid backcountry seekers like myself, practice multiple times a season. While I’m on a tour out with friends and the ski conditions are kind of crummy, or the avalanche danger is high and we don’t want to get into any consequential terrain, or even when we are just waiting for that one friend to show up who always oversleeps, my partners and I will set up beacon search scenarios for each other as a productive way to pass the time and still have a good day. Lately, Avalanche Beacon Training Parks have been popping up across our state as an even more convenient way to practice with your beacon, that requires zero set up on your end.
Avalanche Beacon Training Parks are a great tool to help you hone your beacon skills and practice how to do a beacon search. Most parks consist of multiple buried beacons that can be turned on and off via a user-friendly control board, allowing the user (you) to play out various burial scenarios and improve your ability to locate one or multiple beacons.
One thing to remember when visiting a beacon park, is that most of them ask that you do not dig up the buried beacons. The main goal of beacon parks is to help you practice with your beacon and your probe. Make sure to check all instructions for each individual beacon park to know what is and isn’t allowed. Here we have compiled a list of Avalanche Beacon Training Parks throughout Colorado, organized from closest to furthest from the Front Range. Now get out there and reconnect with your beacon and hone in on how you can help it help you!
Arapahoe Basin: A Basin sets up an Avalanche Beacon Training Park yearly. The park is at the top of the BMX lift adjacent to the loading area of the Lenawee lif.
Winter Park: Ski Patrol at Winter Park sets up buried beacon/rescue scenarios at both Winter Park and Mary Jane. They typically change up locations and scenarios through the year in order to make it very realistic and educational for all types of scenarios. Both the Winter Park and Mary Jane stations are set up, please call dispatch at 970-726-1480 to get the exact location of the current scenarios, and check back in each time you want to go for any updates.
Avalanche Beacon Training Park by Summit County Rescue Group: SCRG sets up a beacon training park each year. It will be back at the Frisco Adventure Park this year, and it should be open within the next week or two. Keep an eye on SCRG’s social media channels for any updates.
Hidden Valley in RMNP: 8 beacons are buried in a marked area just west of the parking lot and can be turned on/off by the user via a control panel. Rangers advise that an entry pass is required for RMNP, and the Hidden Valley area can be busy on weekends.
Meadow Mountain Trailhead: This beacon park opened last year, just outside of Minturn, on the White River National Forest. 8 beacons are buried and can be turned on and off for various scenarios via a control panel. Unlike beacon parks located at ski resorts, this new beacon training park at Meadow Mountain requires no pass to access, and it is always open and free to the public. All you need to do is show up with your personal beacon and probe, and you can conduct your very own free beacon training session. The beacon park is just a quick hike up from the trailhead. More information on the Mountain Meadow Avalanche Beacon Training Park can be found here.
Monarch Mountain: A practice area is set up at the base of Panorama Lift, in the runout of B’s Bash and Doc’s Run. The practice area consists of 2 buried targets that are changed periodically by Patrol.
Steamboat Ski Resort: Steamboat Ski Patrol has set up a Beacon Practice Area for the public to use next to the ski patrol headquarters at the top of the Sundown Express Lift. Patrol buries 4 targets which get changed periodically. Users should bring their own beacons and probes. You can call ski patrol at 970-871-5911 for more information.
Steamboat Howelsen Hill: Routt County Search and Rescue has set up a beacon training park at Howelsen Hill that is open to the public. The system is a series of six boxes buried that can be turned on at a control panel. One or more beacons can be turned on at the same time, and finding them will often require people to maneuver around trees and other obstacles. The park is located near the base of the Barrows Lift, and you can find out more information here.
Aspen Mountain (Ajax): A practice area is located near the top of Gent’s Ridge Lift. Contact patrol for more information and to see if beacons are buried anywhere else around the resort at 970-920-0723.
Crested Butte (town): A BCA beacon training park is located at the Mountain Bike Park near the Crested Butte Community High School. A configuration of buried beacons can be turned on and off via a control panel to practice with. This is another park that is not located at a resort, and therefore it is free to use to everyone.
Telluride: Telluride’s Beacon Basin is located on Lower Woozley’s between the top of lift 5 and the bottom of Lift 14. It has 7 buried targets that you can turn on in any combination to work on your beacon and probing fundamentals. The Beacon Basin is open for the year.
Purgatory: Purgatory has a beacon park at the base of lift 3. There are 8 beacons buried in configurations that can simulate single and multiple burial scenarios by using the control panel. Wickets are available at the park to simulate probes, just bring your beacon! Contact ski patrol with any questions at 970-247-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-From all of us at FOBP: Happy hunting out there and stay safe! Let us know if you have any other beacon training parks we should add to the list.
Friends of Berthoud Pass is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization based in Colorado.
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Preserving the Legacy of Public Recreation at Berthoud Pass