Colorado Mountain School guide Mark Kelly and I went up to Loveland Pass on Thursday to take advantage of arctic temperatures to test the Tracker2. It was -17 degrees F that morning at nearby Arapahoe Basin. We found some really nice hard slab debris, which provided excellent real-world conditions. We were able to bury the transmitting beacons more than a meter deep, which is about the average burial depth North America. Digging holes in hard debris is tough, but at least it keeps you warm. It was especially tough on me, since I broke a rib (surfing) just two weeks ago. I couldn’t imagine having to dig out an avalanche victim after getting beat up in an avalanche yourself (and not getting buried, but having to perform a companion rescue). One broken rib is nothing compared to what happens to most folks in avalanches.
T2 (Tracker2) performed well, as we hoped and expected. It’s interesting to note that some other beacons we were using with LCD (Liquid Crystal Displays) were very sluggish in displaying distance and directional information. As a North American company, we’ve always felt LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) are more suitable for our climate, which is a lot colder than Europe. The conditions on Thursday certainly helped reinforce our commitment to this design priority.
Edge testing Tracker2 in hard slab avalanche debris and subzero temps. Photo by Mark Kelly.
We ran into Ben Pritchett and Colin Zacharias of AIARE (American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education), who were teaching an Instructor Training Course at nearby Pass Lake. They also found the hard slab avalanche noteworthy, as this could be one of many to come our way this season, thanks to a classic “faceted” Colorado snowpack.
We’re continuing to test the heck out of these beacons in parallel with production. We are actually building the units now and will “flash” them with the final software right before shipping. The software is the main thing we’re testing right now, making sure there are no lingering bugs.