“Practice. Practice. Practice.” Avalanche educators are often heard chanting this mantra to students learning to use avalanche transceivers and honing rescue skills. How can this learning process be accelerated? Case studies confirm that practice search preparation time is significantly shortened with access to dedicated training sites. Advanced skills such as deep and multiple burials can be developed in less time and in more realistic scenarios when utilizing “beacon park” training sites.
If you live or play in West Central Montana, there’s a good chance there is a Beacon Training Park near you, allowing you to practice multiple search scenarios at your convenience. These valuable training sites allow for individuals to hone skills and provide safe group training opportunities throughout the region.
1. Lolo Pass 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 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 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 at the Lolo Hot Springs Resort, in Missoula at The Trailhead on Front St., The Outdoor Supply & Rental in Tremper’s Plaza, and the Lolo National Forest Supervisors Office at Fort Missoula.
Organized groups who want to use the site for an educational or training program need to contact Buffie Cerutti at the Powell Ranger Station (208) 942-3113 regarding special use permit requirements.
2. Big Sky Brewing CO.
The Big Sky Brewing beacon training park is located just behind the Missoula, Montana brewery location on the amphitheater concert grounds. The Moose Bar serves as the master unit, just as it does at the concerts. This training opportunity is available seven days per week. You must have a transceiver and a probe to use the training site. Please read the directions on the control box and let the taproom know if you’d like the course lights on for use at night or if a unit is not functioning correctly.
3. 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 yellow waterproof box. You must purchase a lift ticket or have a ski pass to access this park.
4. Lost Trail 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.
5. Seeley Lake | 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 Seeley Lake Driftriders Snowmobile Club installs and maintains the park.
The ability to support and maintain beacon training parks is the sum of volunteer efforts and private-public partnerships.