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Bringing home the beacon

Contest promotes snow safety skills

— Longtime backcountry skier Charlie Magnuson has a plan to promote and enhance avalanche beacon skills.

“With all the avalanches in Routt County recently, it makes you realize that for all people who have beacons, it’s not just enough to have it on,” Magnuson said. “You want to be able to locate people lightning fast : To get people to practice, I decided to make it a contest.”

Magnuson plans to host the first annual North Routt Beacon Search Contest at 3 p.m. Saturday at his property in Hahn’s Peak Village.



Magnuson said he hopes the competition, which will time competitors as they race to locate a buried beacon with their own, will grow into one that determines bragging rights among guides, ski patrollers, search and rescue members and the area’s other avalanche experts.

The event is free and open to all levels of backcountry enthusiasts who will by vying for what Magnuson said is up to $1,000 in cash and prizes for the top finishers.



“If people are fast with a beacon, it’s life and death,” Magnuson said. “You want to be proficient.”

A Steamboat Lake Snow Club fundraiser, which includes dinner, live music and a silent auction, follows the event from 6 to 9 p.m., at Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated the Steamboat zone as “considerable” with pockets of “high” avalanche danger on north-, northeast-, east-, southeast- and south-facing aspects near and above tree line. Visit http://avalanche.state.co.us/ for more details.

Routt County Search and Rescue public information officer Riley Polumbus advised backcountry users to avoid avalanche terrain, especially run-out areas and to stick to low-angle terrain.

Eric Deering, the CAIC’s representative for the zone and head of snow safety for Steamboat Powdercats, noted recreational backcountry users should be concerned about wind-loaded layers of new snow.

“There are some zones that are not so dangerous, but it is not a walk in the park,” Deering said by phone from the top of a snowy and windy Buffalo Pass. “People need to use good travel and management skills, know what you can and can’t ski and what your options are.”

– To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com


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