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Winter backcountry adventurers need to understand and prepare for the risk of avalanches. Rocky Mountain National Park is the first national park to add an avalanche beacon training area inside the park where snow sports enthusiasts, search and rescue volunteers, park staff and others can practice locating buried beacons and brush up on their skills.
Located at Hidden Valley (which was an operating ski area years ago, and is now a popular sledding and tubing area) the Avalanche Beacon Training Park is easy to access. It’s self-service so people bring their own probes, shovels, transceivers, and beacons, and then select different scenarios at the main control station.
On a weekend when snow conditions are good, Rocky Mountain National Park can have up to 500 people in the backcountry. While the Park does have avalanches each winter, and in the past few years those caught in them were not injured, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the risks involved.
As one of the most popular backcountry ski areas in the Front Range, RMNP encourages “know before you go” by checking conditions, being aware of the risks, taking precautions, and carrying the proper safety equipment. Assuming your whole party isn’t buried at once, wearing a personal beacon increases the chances of survival by being found within the first 15 minutes of avalanche burial, but using the beacons skillfully in a survival situation requires practice and you want to make sure that all the members of your party are up to speed and ready to rescue each other.
More information on avalanche conditions and safety precautions are available from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.