It is difficult to abide by all of the information and knowledge passed along during an avalanche course. Regardless of the level there is always an abundance of learning that must occur outside of the course/classroom. One of the pieces of advice that I have long ignored is to practice with my beacon on a routine basis, particularly during the summer and fall. I often used the excuse that practicing with my beacon is difficult if not impossible given that I didn’t own multiple beacons and my ski partners live too far away to practice frequently. Thus early winter when everyone reconvenes for the first skiable snow is generally when some hasty practice and checks were generally undertaken. However, after many years of trusted service I finally upgraded my old school tracker to a slimmed down yet functionally robust ARVA pro. Needless to say in the first 45min of practice I am impressed with the physical design and user friendliness of what is dubbed an “advanced beacon.” Yet, what surprised me the most this morning has nothing to do with the new technology in my hands but rather the hypothetical scenarios that began to manifest in my head as I practiced. I found myself wondering what happens if I get turned around while searching (the ARVA has a nice u-turn signal for this)? Why would I get turned around? Do I want auto revert? If the conditions are that dangerous should I be in the location I am in…..moreover if they are that bad how did we get here in the first place? Needless to say the rabbit hole of hypotheticals is vast and presumably unending (until the coffee needs a refill). Yet, reflecting on this morning’s practice I wonder if this act possesses just as much value in it’s ability to spark our imaginations to generate stories in which we try to navigate avalanche terrain as it does our ability to manage the worst case scenario of unintentionally triggering an avalanche? So for those planning on hiding old beacons in their gardens, back yards, drawers, etc. perhaps we should take an extra moment to allow our collective imaginations to wander a little bit in order to create backstories as to why we are searching for a beacon at all. This mental manipulation allows us to delve further into the inherent complexity of avalanche terrain as well as the generally more linear act of search and rescue.

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