The Edge

It's Time to Retire Your Old, Unsafe Avalanche Beacon

And Ortovox will help incentivize you: it'll pay $75 for any old transceiver through a new gear-retirement program

It's Time to Retire Your Old, Unsafe Avalanche Beacon

Photo: chrischeii/Stockphoto

If your avalanche beacon is over a decade old, it's time for an upgrade. You can even make money off of it, thanks to a new promotion from apparel and mountain-safety brand Ortovox: turn in your transceiver—of any make and model—to an Ortovox dealer and get a $75 credit toward the company's 3+.  

The program aims to retire old, potentially dangerous transceivers. “Beacon technology has changed a lot in the past decade and older, two-antenna beacons don’t offer the reliability of newer ones” says Tom Mason, a design manager at Ortovox. 

Today, every manufacturer, makes beacons with three antennas, which are easier to use and have a broader search range than their one- and two-antenna predecessors. The problem is that as people upgrade their beacons, their old ones aren’t being retired from the field, and that could be fatal.

“In the climbing community, the idea of retiring gear is normal” says Mason. “I would never use a rope for 10 years then resell it on Craigslist.” That’s not the case with beacons, which are expensive to buy new and can look just fine even after seasons of use. “When people upgrade their beacons, they sell their old ones on Craigslist and eBay. That transceiver, which is really unsafe to use, is being re-circulated into the backcountry. As a skiing community, we need to think about those things.” 

Markus Beck, owner of Alpine World Ascents and an AMGA/IFGA certified guide, recommends skiers upgrade their transceivers every ten years, mostly because the technology is improving so rapidly. "There are still working one- and two-antenna beacons out there," he says. "But like anything, antennas break over time. And it's very hard to tell if an antenna's broken without sending it to the manufacturer." When guiding in the backcountry, Beck requires clients use only the new ones. "For me, it's not worth the risk," he says.

Even with $75 off, a new beacon is a big investment. The 3+ retails for $340. Visit the Ortovox store locator for a full list of participating dealers.

"We hope that in a few years, as people understand the importance of the new technology, all older two-antenna beacons will be retired," says Mason.

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