Avalanche beacon park in Rocky could be first in a national park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular destination for snow sports in the backcountry, areas that can carry avalanche risks.
As part of an effort to encourage people to reduce those risks with safety, the national park has added an avalanche beacon training park in Hidden Valley.
“There are a number of beacon parks in the state, but we believe this is the first beacon park in a national park,” said Kyle Patterson, spokeswoman for Rocky.
A beacon park is an area with avalanche beacons buried in set, yet hidden, locations for outdoor enthusiasts to practice using avalanche beacon technology.
“It’s a great tool,” said Mike Lukens, a climbing ranger at the national park who spearheaded the effort to install the training area in Hidden Valley. “It helps sharpen those skills.” Beacon parks are not new and are installed at most major ski areas. However, officials believe Rocky is the first national park to open its own.
The Hidden Valley training spot, which opened in January, is completely self-service. People bring their own probes, transceivers and beacons, and then select different scenarios at the main control station. Then, they practice safely reading the signal from the beacons, which in a real avalanche would be on a buried person, and finding the victim as quickly and as safely as possible.
“If you don’t practice, it becomes rough when you get put in a stressful situation,” he said. “In an avalanche burial, time is of the essence.”
Survival in an avalanche is more likely if the person is found within the first 15 minutes, and practice builds skills and muscle memory, Lukens said.
The national park, which Lukens described as “probably the most popular backcountry ski area on the Front Range,” has been reaching out with classes and information on preventing tragedy in avalanche country. Park officials offer “Know before you go” lessons on how to check conditions and awareness of the risks along with safety equipment and precautions.
Part of that prevention effort is the beacon park.
Lukens said that $3,500 from the park’s search and rescue fund paid for the technology that was installed when a only a few feet of snow covered Hidden Valley. Continued snowfall has further buried the beacons, which will remain in place until the snow melts away and then
Rocky Mountain National Park officials believe an avalanche beacon training park that opened in January at Hidden Valley, shown here, is the first to be installed in a national park.