Snow Safety 101: Do I Need an Avalanche Transceiver?

by Fraser

With the rising popularity of backcountry skiing and snowboarding, avalanche safety has never been more crucial. 

I’ve therefore been trying my best to answer all of your pressing backcountry questions. 

One of the most common is, “Do I need an avalanche transceiver?”

Well, if you’re even considering it, the answer is probably yes! But there’s a little more to it than that. Let’s take a look. 

When Should You Carry a Transceiver?

Simply put, you should carry an avalanche transceiver any time you venture into an area where there’s a risk of avalanche.

This is typically the case in backcountry environments, off-piste areas, or any snow-covered mountainous regions outside of the controlled boundaries of a ski resort. This even includes un-groomed areas directly alongside groomed runs. 

If you plan to ride in any of these conditions, get a transceiver!

>> Best Avalanche Transceivers For Beginners

Remember, avalanches are unpredictable and can occur due to numerous factors like changing weather conditions, snowpack conditions, and disturbance caused by skiers or snowboarders. These are outside our control!

It's Not All About You

An avalanche transceiver isn’t just for your safety. It’s also for the safety of others!

If an avalanche occurs, your transceiver will help rescuers locate you more quickly, and if you’re not caught in the avalanche, your transceiver will help you find and dig out your friends (or other victims).

Do I Need An Avalanche Transceiver on Groomers?

If you literally always stick to designated in-bounds runs, you probably don’t need an avalanche beacon.

However, it never hurts to wear one. You never know when you’ll find yourself first on the scene at a nearby slide – it’s happened to me more than once!

groomed ski slopes

Whilst the resort safety teams do an incredible job of controlling avalanche risk, a small risk always remains (even on groomed slopes). If you’re risk-averse, you might consider wearing one in resort. 

Where is The Best Place to Wear an Avalanche Beacon?

1. Chest Harness

The most effective place to wear your avalanche beacon is close to your body. This is usually in the dedicated harness provided by the beacon’s manufacturer, worn over your base layer but under your outerwear.

This ensures the beacon is secure, preventing it from being torn away during an avalanche. Wearing the beacon under your outerwear also protects it from the elements, ensuring it works when you need it most.


2. Pockets

This is an increasingly popular option, particularly given how small the latest transceivers are. You’ll also see dedicated “transceiver pockets” in some of the newer jackets and pants. 

Whilst in the past, you’d have been ripped a new one for even considering a pocket carry, it’s now a case of personal preference. But use a strong, internal pocket!

Where NOT to Carry An Avalanche Beacon

  1. Avoid placing your beacon in your backpack; it could easily be separated from you in an avalanche.
  2. In your car or apartment. If you forget your beacon, the backcountry is off-limits!

Always remember that your beacon should be easily accessible. You must be able to switch from transmit to search mode if needed.

In Conclusion: Do you need an avalanche transceiver?

So, back to your initial question: “Do I need an avalanche transceiver?”

If you’re venturing into any area with avalanche risk, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

Not only can it drastically increase your chances of being rescued, but it also equips you with the means to locate your fellow riders.

Pair it with proper avalanche education, and a beacon becomes an invaluable part of your snow safety arsenal. After all, when facing avalanches, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Stay safe and enjoy the ride!

Best Value!
Recommended: BCA Tracker S Beacon
9.1/10 Our Score
  • Super easy to use 
  • Great range - 55m 
  • Simple interface 
  • Low profile and lightweight
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