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'Snow Beacon' Avalanche Transmitter - No Receive, No Point?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I had heard hints at the arrival of this product some time ago.

It's a low cost avalanche transmitter only (no search mode).

Affordable backcountry safety or irresponsible device?

Here are my thoughts:

http://aussieskier.com/index.php/2012/05/snow-beacon-avalanche-transmitter/

I guess the main question is would you go skiing with someone with a transmit-only beacon?

Didn't think so.
post #2 of 28

That's not backcountry safety, it's body recovery.  No, I wouldn't ski with someone who's only interest is in being found, not in finding.  The decision to buy that tells plenty when it comes to someone's knowledge in the b/c: None.  I want my partners to be experienced and skilled in using the proper equipment to save others.  Seriously, when it comes to being properly equipped, a transceiver is a very important part and not that horribly expensive.  You can buy BCA Trackers for about $239 on sale.  Compared to what is spent on skis, skins, shovels, probes, packs, A/T boots and bindings, etc., how much savings on a transmitter vs. transceiver is justifiable?  I don't want to spit on the inventors but this is a stupid idea.  Yes, it's irresponsible.

post #3 of 28

I don`t see a point for using such device. Imagine what`s gonna happen if a group of a few skiers go for a side/backcountry for a few hours or few days and everyone is using that device. Nobody is really protected because you can be found, but nobody can search for you...

 

I think this is some sort of selfish cheap "safety" device, I wouldn`t go out using one of this and watch a friend die because I can`t search for him... Don`t think this would be used by anyone that really go out on avalanche terrain, and I don`t think this would ever be suggested by any instructor or experienced backcountry skier/guide

post #4 of 28

I don't care about you, but I'd really like you to rescue me. rolleyes.gif  I guess if you have one of those it also saves you the trouble and expense of having to buy and carry a probe and shovel.

post #5 of 28

Makes sense for dogs. But I think they already have that and they are on a different frequency.

post #6 of 28

Makes sense for dogs, for sleds, and for training.  

 

AFAICT, having devices like this makes search + probe + recovery training more affordable and likelier to happen.    This is a very good thing.

 

I don't want to ski with you or your full service AT if you haven't trained with it.

post #7 of 28

I'm not sure how much money is saved by removing the receive function.  Seems like a bad cost-benefit play.

 

That said, anyone can buy a transponder, but that doesn't guarantee the ability to use it.  Considering how critical the element of time is, some people are effectively using a transmit-only device, anyway.

 

A transmit-only device could make sense for resort use.  Inbounds slides are rare, but do happen. And when they do, there are a number of people with receivers relatively nearby.  These Snow Beacons could be a great holiday gift for yuppie families to give themselves.

 

I wonder, however, how much use they'll get.  Being so passive, will the devices get forgotten?  Will the batteries go dead without notice?  I know people who forget sunscreen frequently.  I'm sure they'd forget these, too.

post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xela View Post

I'm not sure how much money is saved by removing the receive function.  Seems like a bad cost-benefit play.

 

 

 

Considering you could also remove the incoming signal strength testers and most of the user interface, possibly a fair bit.      

 

Transmit-only can be nothing more than a plastic box, a button, and a timer going 'bleep' on the radio - it's not like the mfg. needs to buy an AT ASIC.

 

 

Seems a really good way for a club to buy 4-5 of these and practice multiple-burial, multiple-signal searching scenarios.        If you lose one in the snow/leaves/mud - no biggie.

post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks all for the comments.

Today Unofficial picked up on my post, I made sure I was pretty measured in my account but they went for the jugular: http://unofficialnetworks.com/dangerous-piece-avalanche-safety-gear-world-snowbe-98574/

It also elicited a reply from another Australian blogger with sympathy for the owners and also a story on the importance of correctly representing a product's information on the website: http://pitchit2me.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/when-bloggers-attack/

The website product description has since been updated and I'm sure this will further evolve.

It would seem that I've stirred a bit of a hornet's nest, it wasn't my intention to create a witch hunt and it's not a topic that I will follow as a crusade.

However I am content that the ill-conceivedness of this device has been acknowledged by the wider community, and for what it's worth even after the explanation of its purpose I'm still of the opinion that the device is still limited in its scope and that is vastly outweighed by the potential for its misuse.

While I have no doubt that the owners conceived this device with the best of intentions I think it was done in ignorance of the culture of backcountry skiing, and while we now know this device is not intended for the backcountry, it is core BC skiers that are most likely to pick up on these devices at first and they have responded accordingly.

Happy skiing.
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 
Further to the above, due to interest generated I've extracted a PDF from my eBook 'The Powder Bible' on Avalanche Safety and made it available on http://facebook.com/aussieskierblog

You don't have to 'Like' the page, but it would be nice if you did. smile.gif
post #11 of 28
Quote:
It also elicited a reply from another Australian blogger with sympathy for the owners and also a story on the importance of correctly representing a product's information on the website: http://pitchit2me.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/when-bloggers-attack/

+1million

 

read first, then reconsider your actions and if you jumped to conclusions and how you feel about yourself, maybe not here, but a lot of the other posts were out for blood.

post #12 of 28

Thanks Richard.  Your thoughts are well-considered and considerate of the product, but in the end I think you conclusion the developer of this product misses the backcountry ethic is true.

post #13 of 28

I followed this for no real reason except that it's almost June and I've done a small bit of backcountry. The relevant comment IMO is this from "when blogger's attack" (my underline):

 

"So who is at fault here? The blogger for not speaking to the inventor and posting his opinion based on a piece of public marketing collateral, a website, or the startup inventor for not being bang on absolutely clear in the tag line and home page and employing a website writer to get that message across?"

 

When I visited the product's web site before the brohaha, there was no, zilch, nada indication that this was an inbounds product aimed at children. I understand that now it's been hastily revised to state it's for inbounds, still mentions how cheap, but still no emphasis on children. 

 

So sorry, but this does not come across like a struggling start up that wasn't "absolutely clear" about wording. It appears to be just another attempt to target as broad an audience as possible to pay for the start up costs, followed by a partial retreat under pressure. Not all start ups are cool noble guys in their garages, folks. Even when they're making (gasp) skiing gear. Most are just people with an idea for a market niche. Who may or may not be very good at thinking through how the product will be received. 

 

As far as the actual criticisms, meh. Yes, they're all fairly valid. We do not need a bunch of spurious signals going off during a search, and as Cirque notes, the entire ethos is about having each other's back. No free rides. And the inventor is flat naive (or disingenuous) if he assumes a bit of tech meant for one purpose won't end up being used for other purposes. Like actual backcountry, by actual adults. Not even clear why it would be a good thing for kids inbounds; they'd be long dead by the time someone with a receiver finds them in a tree well, which would seem the major safety claim, not the rare inbounds avalanche. 

 

OTOH obviously some of these bloggers have gotten waaay too wrapped up in their own brand of backcountry macho. But that's a different issue than how a particular product is being marketed.

post #14 of 28

Even with the product's purpose clarified, I think it's got some real problems.  If you equip a kid with a transmitter, I think it gives a kid too much of a false sense of security.  They may feel emboldened to go through side/back country gates out of the resort as they have a transmitter: "Hey guys, let's go hit that untracked powder over there.  We've all got avalanche protection now so we're safe."....  At gates where they have to show they're emitting a signal to be passed, it will make Patrol's job more difficult to weed them out from the legitimate transceivers going through.  I can also see where parents with no real avalanche knowledge might tell a kid it's okay to go out a gate since they now have a transmitter.  It just seems to be too much of a panacea to people who will somehow think it's okay for them or their kids to now go out of bounds, even though the stated purpose of the device is for inbound use.

 

With inbound slides, if there are a group of kids and one gets buried and patrol comes, there are multiple signals to decipher and work through.  It all adds a level of complexity that seems to need some work.  Granted, if a kid gets buried in an inbound slide, having a transmitter is better than nothing at all but there remain a number of conditions that need to be measured against benefit.

 

As for using this as a cheap training device, I don't see a good point.  We've never lost a transceiver in training and just use the ones we have to train with.  It's not that big of a deal.  True, if you lose one of these, it's only $75 versus $250-$500 but if you lose an expensive transceiver, it's probably a good one to lose.  With today's technology, it's difficult to imagine losing a transceiver unless it's faulty to begin with or the battery goes dead, which strength should have been verified when the device was turned on.  Besides, someone has to remember where they buried the stupid thing, I would assume, so losing one seems far-fetched to me.

 

At any rate, I think the Snow Be is a misguided product with very limited use that introduces enough other risks and complexities to the search and rescue world as to demand greater scrutiny.  I give it a big thumbs down.

post #15 of 28

If it was small enough and light enough and cheap enough, then you could attach one to each ski to replace powder cords, but then you would need a receiver to find your ski and you would need a different frequency. I think there are some products on the market now that do what i have just described but they don't work all that well.

post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post

If it was small enough and light enough and cheap enough, then you could attach one to each ski to replace powder cords, but then you would need a receiver to find your ski and you would need a different frequency. I think there are some products on the market now that do what i have just described but they don't work all that well.

 

There is a reason we don't want transmitters attached to equipment (skis, snowmobiles etc) or for that matter dogs...In the event of a rescue scenario, the rescuers need to focus their efforts in a very brief window of opportunity on saving the life of a person who is buried.  Any thing that interferes with that, will cost time and lives.  Never put transceivers on equipment, animals etc.  Also, anyone using a device must at least know to shut it off or switch to search mode in the event of a burial.  Transceivers need to be worn securely against the body where they cannot become separated in an avalanche.   The idea of a bunch of cheap receivers on untrained people at a scene is a nightmare to someone who actually hopes to effect a rescue.

 

FYI there are some passive transmitters that use a different frequency from rescue transceivers that are purpose built for equipment and animal recovery.

post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post

 

There is a reason we don't want transmitters attached to equipment (skis, snowmobiles etc) or for that matter dogs...In the event of a rescue scenario, the rescuers need to focus their efforts in a very brief window of opportunity on saving the life of a person who is buried.  Any thing that interferes with that, will cost time and lives.  Never put transceivers on equipment, animals etc.  Also, anyone using a device must at least know to shut it off or switch to search mode in the event of a burial.  Transceivers need to be worn securely against the body where they cannot become separated in an avalanche.   The idea of a bunch of cheap receivers on untrained people at a scene is a nightmare to someone who actually hopes to effect a rescue.

 

FYI there are some passive transmitters that use a different frequency from rescue transceivers that are purpose built for equipment and animal recovery.

 

Cirquerider puts into a clear perspective some of the very concerns I have.  Searches are already confused, stressful, and chaotic enough without introducing another element through this product.  I forgot to mention the concept of putting the transmitter into a jacket pocket.  People could spend an inordinate amount of time digging out a jacket while the victim remains buried and, in all likelihood, dead.  Remember too, the searchers are still in harm's way following a slide due to sympathetic slides and hangfire above them.  I can't imagine anything more frustrating and demoralizing than searching for some kid and digging out their jacket, all after having to sort out what beeps are coming from where and trying to organize some sort of systematic search. 

 

Having these devices on kids is a bit like a helmet discussion (I know, here we go again....).  The argument of having a helmet leading to more injuries due to increased false senses of security seems parallel to what these devices could lead to, and that's not a good thing.  The 'I have an avalanche transmitter so I'm safe' mentality could lead to even more dangerous behavior than what's currently seen.  While the invention may be the outgrowth of good intentions, the potential for unintended, negative results seems significant.

post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post

 

There is a reason we don't want transmitters attached to equipment (skis, snowmobiles etc) or for that matter dogs...In the event of a rescue scenario, the rescuers need to focus their efforts in a very brief window of opportunity on saving the life of a person who is buried.  Any thing that interferes with that, will cost time and lives.  Never put transceivers on equipment, animals etc.  Also, anyone using a device must at least know to shut it off or switch to search mode in the event of a burial.  Transceivers need to be worn securely against the body where they cannot become separated in an avalanche.   The idea of a bunch of cheap receivers on untrained people at a scene is a nightmare to someone who actually hopes to effect a rescue.

 

FYI there are some passive transmitters that use a different frequency from rescue transceivers that are purpose built for equipment and animal recovery.


Cirquerider, your points are well taken, but if you reread my post you will notice that i did say that you would need a different frequency for ski recovery use.

post #19 of 28

Maybe this product is targeted at giant ski area conglomerate companies to provide to their employees at a lower cost than the transmit and receive beacons.  Searching costs a lot more money and overtime expenses than recovery does..rolleyes.gif

post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post


Cirquerider, your points are well taken, but if you reread my post you will notice that i did say that you would need a different frequency for ski recovery use.

I think just as the blog/marketting post showed, here we go again falling into the same boat with your idea.  

 

One may have a good idea.  But say it's a 95% baked idea, and maybe 5% isn't fully baked, and entirely clear or needs but it could be tweaked or worked around; If you market it wrong and it goes viral and your reputation could gets ripped to shreds for the 5% you didn't take into account, and the 95% good idea gets thrown out with the bathwater.

 

I think that's the true lesson to be learned from this.   Internet giveth popularity and it taketh away.  Often they aren't neutral where they will honestly say you have 95% of a good idea there, but you got to fix that last 5%.

post #21 of 28

The truth is, that avalanche safety is a life or death issue, and the marketing of this product, at the outset at least, didn't show sufficient consideration for the seriousness of this issue. Instead there was an emphasis toward the economy of the product, and not toward the limitations of it's intended use, or how it cannot not be considered a replacement for an avalanche transceiver.

 

The tone of the initial website text was misleading, and the fallout is the responsibility of the one who published this material; if it had been more conscientiously presented, the response would not have been nearly so adverse. However, since there is lack of a means of securing the device to the users' bodies, even the intended use is inadequately served by the device, unless the intended use was simply to allow some parents a false sense of security, in which case, the intent would be specifically to mislead potential customers.

post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

Maybe this product is targeted at giant ski area conglomerate companies to provide to their employees at a lower cost than the transmit and receive beacons.  Searching costs a lot more money and overtime expenses than recovery does..rolleyes.gif

 

Gee, as a customer of such a conglomerate, I'd really like the employees to be equipped with something that can help save my life, not just theirs.

post #23 of 28

speaking narrowly to the issue of inbounds avalanche, if there are patrol (or well informed skiers), checking in, what response would you prefer from knowledgable, beacon equipped public skiers when you have a brand new slide sight with possible multiple burials, at least one confirmed burial (skier missed by buddy in this location)?  Include what sort of resources and number of patrol present a patrol team has to have at a resort to handle a typical inbounds event, say 50 - 150 feet across, 400 - 600 feet in length, 16 inch crown.

post #24 of 28

According to the US Forest Service, you'd want your searchers no more than 30m (98' 5") apart.  So, for 150' width, you'd need only 2 people for the primary search, both starting at the crown.  My guess is you'd need far more than that for crowd control and to make sure everyone in the area stops transmitting.  Since part of the search should be visual, as well, you could probably improve things with 4 or even 6 folks for the primary search.

 

The secondary search should be one person.  The rest stand by with shovels.  I'm not sure how many people can shovel at once without getting in each other's way, but I'm guessing more than 4 or 6 would be too much.

 

This is all off the internet; I don't actually know anything.  Does anyone actually know from experience?  Personally, I was surprised how few people would be needed, although Dave did specify a small slide.  I'd guess crowd control is very situation-dependent, but it sounds like a dozen people total could handle it all.

 

Upon further thought, I think the primary search could be sped up with more people.  Divide the length of the slide into, say, thirds, and start three rows of searchers down.  One group starts at the crown, one group 1/3 of the way down, one 2/3 down.  All start at once.  This assumes however that the whole team arrives at the same time.

 

Multiple burials complicates things, but I think the manpower required depends on how close together the multiples are.

post #25 of 28

Ski patrol could generally gather that kind of team in a couple minutes. Their strategy is to always have patrol at high points on the mountain, so they also arrive quickly, again a couple  minutes. Not in every situation, naturally.

 

So what then is the part of a well equipped public?  I don't think that self-reliance as a survival tactic is generally practical or productive in the resort avalanche setting. Tree wells and sluffs, you're going to be on your own, but that doesn't take teams or gear, just having an alert buddy higher on the pitch than you are, hmmmm.

 

If your buried group is isolated or cut off, then it's more like backcountry, and that happening in a resort, just your bad luck.


Edited by davluri - 5/29/12 at 8:48pm
post #26 of 28

I think we're getting a bit off the topic of the Snow-Be, but...

 

It seems to me that the key variable is how long it takes patrol to learn about the slide.  Some ski areas are rather vast and not all aspects are easily visible.  That guy at Winter Park died in a treed area from a slide 40' wide and 30' long, magnified by a terrain trap.  Nobody came rushing.

 

Seems to me best to ski in groups of 3 or more.  One gets buried, one starts the search/rescue, one summons help.  Can't always rely on a cell phone.

post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xela View Post

I think we're getting a bit off the topic of the Snow-Be, but...

 

It seems to me that the key variable is how long it takes patrol to learn about the slide.  Some ski areas are rather vast and not all aspects are easily visible.  That guy at Winter Park died in a treed area from a slide 40' wide and 30' long, magnified by a terrain trap.  Nobody came rushing.

 

Seems to me best to ski in groups of 3 or more.  One gets buried, one starts the search/rescue, one summons help.  Can't always rely on a cell phone.

 

3 is good, but if you only have 2, have a whistle (my (non-skiing specific) backpack has one built into the left strap).

post #28 of 28

One point is: what is the point of a full featured three antenna beacon for resort inbounds skiing, so somewhat on point still.

 

partly because I bought the Pieps Freeride and trusted it for the resort for high quality and dependability due to the brand, minimum search feature, compact, and fairly inexpensive.  (I do not see the need for something dirt cheap, and a new brand that may or may not be of high quality, as in un-proven.)

 

A group of three would have to have almost as much luck as never being caught to begin with to be able to rescue one of their own, if the event is taking place in deep fresh snow. Everyone would have to be in perfect position when it happened. I know it can be done, and is sometimes done, but it's really difficult.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

Ski patrol could generally gather that kind of team in a couple minutes. Their strategy is to always have patrol at high points on the mountain, so they also arrive quickly, again a couple  minutes. Not in every situation, naturally.

 

So what then is the part of a well equipped public?  I don't think that self-reliance as a survival tactic is generally practical or productive in the resort avalanche setting. Tree wells and sluffs, you're going to be on your own, but that doesn't take teams or gear, just having an alert buddy higher on the pitch than you are, hmmmm.

 

If your buried group is isolated or cut off, then it's more like backcountry, and that happening in a resort, just your bad luck.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xela View Post

I think we're getting a bit off the topic of the Snow-Be, but...

 

It seems to me that the key variable is how long it takes patrol to learn about the slide.  Some ski areas are rather vast and not all aspects are easily visible.  That guy at Winter Park died in a treed area from a slide 40' wide and 30' long, magnified by a terrain trap.  Nobody came rushing.

 

Seems to me best to ski in groups of 3 or more.  One gets buried, one starts the search/rescue, one summons help.  Can't always rely on a cell phone.


Edited by davluri - 5/30/12 at 10:27am
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