On a dreary Wednesday night,
over 70 mountain enthusiasts came out for the annual three part avalanche education series put on by local backcountry outfitters Tahoe Mountain Sports. The excitement and energy was high partly due to the promising chance of snow in the forecast and the other to check out their new location in Truckee, CA. Just a side note, but if you haven’t made it in to visit do so. It’s a grown up, outdoor lovers paradise! I could spend hours checking out the gear and talking with their product experts about the latest and greatest gadgets.
Tonight the gathering was for a different purpose. Walking in, it was evident. The raffle entry, supporting the Sierra Avalanche Center, was to your immediate left, followed by complementary pizza and beer, and all the merchandise was cleared out for the presentation. The focus was about learning, reviewing and improving your backcountry avalanche safety. The specific topic for part one was titled “Begin with Your Beacon.” Ortovox Rep, Jared Rodriguez and Level 3 AIARE Instructor, Tom Carter were on hand to provide the content.
After a short agenda and intro from Dave, the owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports, Jared began. He gave a brief overview, some alarming statistics and then jumped into the technology and features used in Ortovox Beacons. The details were impressive and well thought out. Did you know their beacons have three antennas? When caught in an avalanche, the Smart-Antenna-Technology with intelligent position recognition automatically switches to the best transmission antenna. This feature ensures you will be found faster. Here’s another life-saving capability. If the beacon doesn’t move after a period of time it automatically switches to transmit; just in case a searching companion is caught in a secondary avalanche. Go here to check out all the types and features. Jared then went on to proper techniques and provided instructions on how to use the equipment. He explained proper gear, communication, distances and positioning. All the little details that are sometimes forgotten were covered.
Next to speak was Level 3 AIARE Instructor and 23 year Lead Guide at Ruby Mt. Heli-Ski, Tom Carter. Tom’s passion was apparent. He’s a guy that’s done, seen and experienced more than 90% of us ever will in our lifetime. After hearing some of his accomplishments, it was back to business.
He was eager to share his knowledge. Tom believes practicing with your equipment is super important. The suggestion was at least 30 times prior to the season and more if possible. Emphasis was put on making beacon searches become a habit. When doing it for real, it will be in a high stress situation. With more practice, movements become second nature and the chance for error is reduced. Then Tom said something that sounded strange at first…he said, “You need to mess up.” The philosophy behind this is that one can’t truly understand what they are doing wrong unless they mess up. His relation was clever, and spot on. Most of the time people are worried about being wrong and think it’s embarrassing. In practice scenarios we need to mess up and be corrected by those with more experience or those who can pinpoint our shortcomings. We need to share knowledge and help each other. Then he pointed around the room. “These should be your ski buddies.” The people not afraid to come out and say I need to learn more or practice more. Clearly he had more to say regarding the topic, but time being a factor he ended there. Tom invited everyone to bring their beacon, or use one of the stores to practice search techniques in the parking lot after the event. If you ever get the chance to meet Tom be sure to say hello. He’s an interesting guy.
The night concluded with the raffle. As if the event, food, beverage and information weren’t enough, Tahoe Mountain Sports and Ortovox put up some great swag and prizes to benefit the Sierra Avalanche Center. The raffle included North Face water bottles, Merino base layers, Men’s and Women’s Deuter Backpacks, and Ortovox Beacons. The grand prize, an avalanche airbag, will drawn at part three of the series!
I’ve attended several events at Tahoe Mountain Sports and each time they do a great job. You always get a genuine local feel. It’s a great chance to “buy local”, learn something new or to meet a new skiing or riding partner. If you haven’t made it in yet, check out their events calendar on Facebook for an updated list.
Here’s just a few:
- Ladies Night featuring Michelle Parker to benefit S.A.F.E A.S. Clinics
- Black Friday Specials
- Cyber Monday Specials
- Part Two of the Avalanche Education Series
Also, be sure to check them out online for great savings or to learn more about products.
Stayed tuned for the next two installments of this avalanche series. Local Freshies will be there to give you the goods.