For as amazing of an experience as skiing can be, it’s not without its risks. Any sport where you’re moving at high speeds can be dangerous, but when you throw in any number of natural obstacles that you can find on the mountain, you’re sure to have the potential for accidents. One of the most terrifying encounters any skier can face is an avalanche.
Avoiding avalanche-prone areas and educating yourself on avalanche safety are both keys to lowering your chances of getting into a bad position. An avalanche beacon is a vital piece of gear that can save your life if you get caught in a slide. Here, we will break down some of the best avalanche beacons for skiing so you can be prepared when you’re out in the snow.
- One of the best avalanche beacons out there is the Mammut Barryvox S Beacon. This is a reliable, effective option that has an effective range of 70 meters.
- Another recommended option is the Backcountry Access Tracker 3. This is a well-built option that’s constructed up to the standards of both North American and European safety recommendations.
- The Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon is a quality beacon that’s reliable in the worst case scenarios. It has a built-in smart transmitter that will automatically adjust the signal based on different burial situations.
Who Should Get This?
It always pays to be prepared. If you’re skiing in the backcountry or anywhere with a high avalanche risk, you need to be extra prepared because a beacon can literally save your life.
Backcountry skiers should have an avalanche beacon on them at all times. It’s a simple solution that will allow searchers to find you if you become buried in an avalanche.
Beacons can obviously be used by snowboarders, nordic skiers, snowmobiliers, and anyone else who wants to spend time in the wilderness in the winter. If you only ski in-bounds at a resort, you don’t need to use a beacon. However, if you want the extra peace of mind just in case the unthinkable happens, it’s an easy item to throw in your pack.
Best Avalanche Beacon for Skiing: What to Consider?
One of the biggest considerations with an avalanche beacon is the effective search range it provides. That refers to the distance from the beacon’s physical location to where a transmitter can pick up the signal and be able to locate the beacon. The larger the receiving range, the easier it is to locate the beacon and, as such, anyone stuck in an avalanche.
Look for a minimum of 50 meters, but don’t be afraid to go higher. That gives rescuers an increased chance of locating you if you get stuck in a slide. You want everything on your side if that happens, and you want a beacon that will put out the best and farthest signal because it can help save your life. All of the options you see here have a range of at least 50 meters.
Number of Antennas
Almost all modern avalanche beacons come with three antennas. That provides you with the best signal to help pinpoint the beacon’s location. By using multiple antennas, a beacon’s signal can be triangulated quickly. That then allows for a faster rescue time if you get caught in an avalanche. While any beacon is better than none at all, you should always look for an option that comes with three antennas to ensure the best signal.
Being an electronic device, all avalanche beacons are powered by a battery. And all batteries can run out of a charge. You want to make sure the beacon you purchase has an extended battery life that will put out a signal for hours (or days) of one charge. The options you’ll find here all have excellent battery life to give you more reliability.
Best Avalanche Beacon for Skiing: Our Picks
The Mammut Barryvox S Beacon is a top option that’s hard to beat. This well-designed and reliable item is built by the reputable brand Mammut and provides the peace of mind you need when venturing into the backcountry in the search of endless powder. What makes this truly stand out is it’s range. It has an effective digital search strip width and digital receiving range of 70 meters.
Other key features of the Barryvox S include an extended range of up to 100 meters and a wide circular receiving field that helps narrow down a search with nearly identical receiving ranges of the X and Y antennas. It also has a bright, clear digital display that can be read even when wearing polarized glasses or goggles. Everything is powered by lithium enabled batteries that say stable when the temperature drops to ensure consistent performance.
- 70-meter digital search strip width and digital receiving range
- Extended analogue range of up to 100 meters
- Wide circular receiving field
- Bright digital display
- Sturdy construction
- Reliable performance
Another solid avalanche beacon is the Backcountry Access Tracker 3. This is a lightweight option that comes in at 7.6 ounces, making it easy to keep on your body with the included harness. It has an effective range of 50 meters, which is the recommended minimum, and has good battery life for accurate and consistent performance in winter weather. It even comes certified to both North American and European safety standards.
- Comes with a harness
- Effective range of 50 meters
- Good battery life
- Certified to multiple safety standards
- Not the best customer service
For another great avalanche beacon that can be used for other wilderness activities, check out the Black Diamond Pieps DSP Sport Beacon. This well-built device comes with the standard three antennas for extra safety and reliable transmission, and also has a self checking antenna. It features a smart transmitter that adjusts signal to allow for multiple burial scenarios, as well as a beacon drift adjustment for added precision during location.
- Smart transmitter
- Beacon drift adjustment
- Included harness
- Circular range
- Harness is a little bulky
Useful Tips & Resources
If you have the need for an avalanche beacon, you also need to know how to avoid avalanches in the first place. You need to be well-prepared and understand how to react if you or anyone you’re skiing with gets caught in one. Check out these tips on avalanche safety and take a class before heading out into the backcountry.
Avalanche beacons are a lifesaving piece of equipment that any skier who ventures out of the resort boundary should have on their person at all times. The devices are easy to use and wear, and they will provide a way to locate anyone who gets caught in a snowslide. The above options are some of the best.
Have you ever taken an avalanche safety course? What’s the biggest lesson you learned? Let us know in the comments below!