Utah Avalanche Center opens new rescue skills training park close to Salt Lake City

Feb 25, 2024, 10:27 PM | Updated: Feb 26, 2024, 10:16 am

PARK CITY — The Utah Avalanche Center opened a new beacon training park at Pinebrook on Sunday, the closest park to Salt Lake City.

“These beacon training parks are a great place for you to come and practice your beacon skills, to hone those skills so that you’re ready if a disaster does strike,” said UAC Executive Director Chad Brackelsberg. “When you’re out there with your partners in the backcountry, whether you’re on skis, snowboard, snowmobile or snow bike, it’s crucial to have really good rescue skills to be prepared for an accident.”

The park is open all day every day through late March or early April, when the transmitters melt out. The park is free to the public.

“This winter we installed a backcountry access wireless training park, and these training parks have between six and eight buried transmitters with a controller box,” Brackelsberg said. “You come up to the controller box and you can turn on as many transmitters as you want, and then you use your transceiver to find it, and then you probe it, and once you probe it, when you get a positive strike, an alarm goes off alerting you that you found that transmitter.”

“These beacon training parks are a great place for you to come and practice your beacon skills, to hone those skills so that you’re ready if a disaster does strike,” said UAC Executive Director Chad Brackelsberg. (KSL TV)

Brackelberg said it’s crucial that people learn or brush up on their emergency rescue skills before they spend time in the backcountry.

“This is a this is a crucial backcountry, lifesaving skill,” he said. “Without good rescue skills, your chance of surviving an avalanche are very small. While avalanche avoidance is always what we’re looking for, and that’s what we strive for, if you do have an accident, it’s these skills that will make sure that you get your partner home to their family at the end of the day.”

Time is critical

He said if a group is caught in a slide, there’s only 15 minutes to make a rescue.

“It’s like any other skill, if you’re not practicing or you get rusty and if you’re going to be skiing big lines in the backcountry and you’re not doing this on a weekly basis, then I think you’re just playing with fire,” said Matt Garnett, a visitor to the park.

Another park visitor, Sean Wilson brought his daughter to the training area Sunday. He said it’s important they both know what to do in case they encounter an avalanche.

“In the heat of the moment, I can imagine if you don’t practice, you don’t know how your gear goes together, you don’t know what you’re doing with the probes and how hard it is to actually dig out a beacon and find it,” Wilson said.

He said it’s also important for people moving to Utah from out of state.

“I think maybe people who move to Utah are getting new into the sport and aren’t really aware of how to use their gear and they just sort of go out into what they think might be safe,” Wilson said. “And this gives them a little bit more of an idea that you need to be prepared for things.”

There are six other beacon training parks throughout the state in Logan, Moab and Manti, and around some resorts.

“A great place to practice with your shovel is one of these plowed snow banks,” said UAC forecaster Joey Manship. “It actually simulates what avalanche debris is really like, kind of frozen and hard and compacted.”

The center asks that people leave the equipment where it is once they’re finished.

“Once you probe that transmitter and it beeps, you just leave it there,” Brackelsberg said. “You don’t need to shovel at these. You leave the transmitters where they are for the next person to practice with.”

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Utah Avalanche Center opens new rescue skills training park close to Salt Lake City