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Backcountry Basics: Beacon Skills – February 20, 2020

Registration for all Mountain Festival events close 48 hours ahead of time. Participants for each event are emailed at this time with tour location, etc. Please remember that all events are held in and around North Lake Tahoe but exact specifics will be shared 48 hours ahead of time to assess snow quality and safety.

February 20 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Available 9 Refundable Deposit $25


Alpenglow Sports
415 N Lake Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145 United States
+ Google Map
Led By:

Jason Layh

Tail Guide(s)

Ken Volz


Besides conservative decision making, your avalanche beacon (also referred to as an avalanche transceiver) is perhaps the most vital backcountry tool in your safety arsenal. Accordingly, just buying one and turning it on at the trailhead without knowing it inside and out isn’t advisable and the more you use your beacon, the more you will be prepared in an emergency. In the unfortunate scenario of an avalanche, your partner’s life depends on a swift and efficient “find.” Accordingly, the more you practice with your beacon the better, and in our “Backcountry Basics: Beacon Skills” workshop, you will do just that! This two hour workshop will cover single and multiple burial scenarios, varying “range” of individual beacons (that vary from model to model) and will set the stage for participants to follow up with other Backcountry Basics workshops, specifically: Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain, Beyone Avy 1, Intro to Ski Mountaineering and more.

Our Backcountry Basics session will pair you with Alpenglow Sports avalanche specialist Jason Layh and local guide Ken Volz for an afternoon of thorough and educational beacon practice. This is a perfect event for those just getting into backcountry travel as well as for more experienced skiers/riders who want to brush up on their technique. Avalanche rescue gear is useless without understanding how to use it. A real avalanche rescue is terrifying, stressful, and chaotic. To save your partner’s life when you only have a few minutes requires beacon, probing, and digging practice. Regularly practicing complete rescue scenarios, i.e., locating, probing, and digging up a buried beacon is critical. The best way to find weaknesses in your equipment or technique is …. to practice!

Please note this will take place on the Tahoe City golf course behind Alpenglow Sports. While you will NOT need touring equipment, you’ll want to dress warmly and come prepared for any possible weather. If you have your own beacon, please bring it! Jason and Ken will cover single and multiple burials, as well as other avalanche scenario events.

Mountain Festival Backcountry Basics workshops are designed to give beginners and intermediates a comfortable, safe and educational introduction into what it means to be a responsible backcountry skier/rider. There are several types of Backcountry Basics workshops: some are 100% classroom-based, some have a mix of classroom and field components and some are conducted 100% in the field during while short mini-tours.

While jumping directly into a beginner tour is perhaps more glamorous than an educational workshop, we feel strongly that beginner and intermediate backcountry skiers and riders need a solid foundational skill set BEFORE heading into the field. At Mountain Festival, our goal is to make sure that beginners and intermediates have an opportunity to build the requisite skill set in order to be responsible, safe and efficient backcountry travelers. Please note that Backcountry Basics workshops are significantly different than a beginner tour. Those new to the sport are STRONGLY encouraged to register for Backcountry Basics workshops BEFORE joining any beginner tour.

In addition to the skill development component of our Backcountry Basics workshops, we also feel strongly about educating those new to the sport about issues that transcends in-the-field skills, namely leave-no-trace ethics, skin track AND parking etiquette, human-powered access issues, climate change and more. Not only will you depart a Backcountry Basics workshop with an enhanced skill set, you will be made aware of some very pressing issues affecting the backcountry landscape in Lake Tahoe.

Equipment Requirements:

  • Avalanche Safety Items: Beacon, Shovel, Probe
  • Warm/Waterproof Clothing and Footwear


Discounted demo equipment will be made available to registered participants via email by mid January. ​
Participants must possess their own avalanche safety equipment (beacon, shovel, probe, pack) and requisite backcountry touring gear (skis, splitboards, bindings, boots, skins, poles, etc.) Please no snowshoes, metal-edge (fish-scale) touring equipment, or dogs.

Sponsored by Black Diamond

*PLEASE NOTE! In the spirit of inclusivity we are limiting participants to four tours. This does not include workshops, Backcountry Basics, etc. Registration for most events requires a deposit, which varies from $25-$100, that is refunded upon participation. Cancellations are not allowed after February 1st and all calendar adjustments prior to February 1st are subject to a $10 adjustment fee. Any excess garnered from the cancellation policy will be donated to Protect Our Winters and the Tahoe Backcountry Alliance.

**Please also note that you will be sent a complete equipment list for each individual event by the middle of January. Additionally, if you have registered for any backcountry tour you will be contacted 72 hours prior to the tour with the exact location. This is irrelevant if your chosen tour stipulates a location, but for others we want to assess the snow and avalanche conditions for others closer to the event. The goal is to show you the best time possible which requires a decision closer to each tour.


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Avalanche Safety
Mountain Festival

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