Spring is the season for backcountry skiing, getting a nice workout while having fun in the sun and keeping the skiing dream alive as long as humanly possible. Only one problem: I don’t backcountry ski. It’s not that I don’t want to — oh believe me you, I really want to — but buying more gear on top of the gear I already have for downhill skiing becomes a bit cumbersome on the broke college kid budget. My mountain at home also stays open for a ridiculously long time, to the point in May when we bring the blades out and ski dirt all day long, so I’ve always just put backcountry skiing on the backburner. Now that I’m in Bozeman for college, though, with Bridger’s April 2nd closing date, I figure it’s about time. Have to stay sane somehow.
However, backcountry skiing isn’t something you can just start doing. Not only do you need to have all the right gear, but a huge part of getting into backcountry skiing is learning about avalanche danger. Part of this safety training is learning how to use a beacon. Bridger requires a beacon to ski most of its super cool terrain, so I brought one with me and had some minimal training in the backyard on how to use it. But, the beacon I brought was my dad’s and very vintage, so while it totally fulfills its purpose, I wanted to try a newer beacon to see if it makes a difference when I finally start more legit backcountry skiing. I had the pleasure of demoing a Black Diamond Pieps Sport model beacon in the last few weeks, and it sure did live up to my expectations. Thankfully, I never needed to use it to actually find someone in an avalanche, but I played with it for a bit and the efficiency is really incredible. The transceiving capabilities allow a much more direct search pattern, so you can find anyone buried much faster. Who knew a brand new beacon would surpass the ability of one from the 1800’s?
Practicing with the Pieps beacon has has gotten me totally stoked for actually getting into backcountry skiing. The next step is taking an avalanche safety course, and then of course diligently searching everywhere for deals on gear so I don’t go totally broke. Wish me luck. Until then, however, I have a fun Easter/beacon activity for you all to try to keep up on your beacon skills and have a festive time. It just seemed fitting to use a Pieps beacon on Easter.
Easter Beacon Hunt
1. Find friends with beacons. Make teams and make sure each team has two beacons. But choose your teams wisely, people; this is about to get competitive.
2. Buy some goodies. There are a few ways to do this part. You can go old school and reminisce on your childhood by buying a bunch of candy and classic Easter egg fillers. Or you can go full college and buy some thirty racks. Or maybe a mix of the two?
3. Go to somewhere open/outside. Have an outside party hide half of the beacons randomly throughout the area, and accompany each beacon with the Easter goody of your choosing. There probably won’t be any snow left if it’s anything like Bozeman, so get creative on hiding spots. Maybe attach one to a bunny conveniently hopping by.
4. Pregame as you see fit. This is a low key safety training, but it’s also a holiday. It’s expected.
5. Release the hounds. This is where your new Pieps beacon will really come in handy with its efficiency. Whoever finds the hidden beacons first get to fully indulge in whatever is hidden with it, whether this means stuffing your face with chocolate Cadbury eggs or festively shotgunning beer. Or again, doing a little of both (sorry mom).
6. Return to your usual life a little more knowledgeable about beacons and also with stories of a lit Easter. Remember, safety first kids.
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