“Practice. Practice. Practice.” Avalanche educators are often heard chanting this mantra to students learning to use their equipment and refreshing their rescue skills. How can this learning process be accelerated? Case studies confirm that honing search and rescue skills is significantly improved with access to dedicated training sites.
Users can develop advanced search skills faster in more realistic scenarios when utilizing a beacon training park. There are four locations to practice search scenarios at your convenience if you live or play in west-central Montana. These valuable training sites provide safe group training opportunities and allow individuals to develop essential search and rescue skills.
1. Lolo Pass Beacon Training Park | Visitor Center
A wireless avalanche beacon training park is installed each winter at Lolo Pass. The training opportunity is available 7 days per week. Snowmobilers will have to walk from the parking lot to use the site. You must have a transceiver and a probe to use the site. This 8 unit station is easy to use and emits a signal when a probe strikes the buried 20″x 20″ target. Please read the directions on the control box and let visitor center staff know if the unit is not functioning properly.
Winter hours of operation at the Visitor Center are Thursday thru Monday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Pacific Standard Time. Winter Recreation Passes are required at all times on all vehicles parked in the Lolo Pass parking area. Day, Season and Bundle Winter Recreation Passes can be purchased at the Visitor Center during normal business hours. After hours Day Passes can be purchased at the front door when the center is closed, for exact cash or check only. Day and Season Passes can also be purchased in Missoula at The Trailhead on Front St.
Organized groups who want to use the site for an educational or training program need to contact Brett Flaharty at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center (208) 942-3113 regarding special use permit requirements.
2. Peter Maxwell Memorial Beacon Training Park | Montana Snowbowl Ski Area
The Snowbowl beacon training park is located at the Point Six exit to the backcountry, just off the trail to Nutcracker. The control box is located on-site and is found by referencing the sign directing the user to the black waterproof box. You must purchase a lift ticket or have a ski pass to access this park.
3. Lost Trail Beacon Training Park | Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Area
The Lost Trail Ski Area beacon training park is located just outside the Lost Trail aid station near the ski patrol building and base area.
4. Seeley Lake Beacon Training Park | Driftriders Warming Hut
The Seeley Lake beacon training park is located at the Warming Hut located in the Deer Creek drainage northwest of Seeley Lake. This beacon park training site is near the Lake Elsina and Lake Dinah riding areas.
The ability to support and maintain beacon training parks is the sum of volunteer efforts and private-public partnerships.