Many communities are knee deep already in beacon checks, snow assessment, and the move to non-rock skis. As daylight savings time reared up this weekend, so too did the need for avalanche beacon maintenance. Time to get on it.
If you haven’t already, place fresh/new batteries in your transceiver. As a backup, stash some extra batteries in the pack if a battery fails while touring. Remember, ^h&t happens.
Check for corrosion on your beacon’s battery terminals. This is imperative; even a small amount of corrosion can disrupt proper beacon functions. That said, and we’ll get back to corrosion in a bit, we hope you removed the batteries from your beacon when you swapped the skis for running shoes, a bike, or whatever. Remove batteries when storing the beacon in the off-season.
OK, back to the corrosion. As noted in this excellent WildSnow PSA, even a small amount of corrosion can cause serious issues with beacon function. A 2021 avalanche fatality, cited in the WildSnow article, brings to light the tragic consequences of a beacon malfunction.
Here’s a synopsis: During the morning’s beacon check, all systems were go. Yet when the avalanche occurred, the rescuer switched into search mode, and the beacon malfunctioned: it could not pick up a signal from the transmitting beacon. The avalanche report reads, “The party performed a transceiver check in the parking lot before they began their tour. Both transceivers appeared to be functioning and had good battery life. Further investigation found a corroded battery compartment in the transceiver which likely led to the malfunction.”
— You can remove corrosion with baking soda, a Q-tip, and a small scrubbing pad. Add in a little vinegar/lemon juice, you can apply it with the Q-tip. For some thorough directions, check out this Wirecutter how-to for removing battery corrosion.
— Here’s the kicker and an important point: if you have battery corrosion, you might want to consider transceiver replacement. Mammut, the manufacturer of Barryvox beacons, has some great information regarding corrosion on pages 11-13 in this linked Barryvox reference guide.
A beacon must remain reliable no matter the circumstances— this is personal safety equipment with no margin for error. If you have concerns about corrosion, contact the manufacturer.
It is worth mentioning again, despite it being the start of a new season in the Northern Hemisphere: remove batteries at the end of the season.
Determine if your beacon has been recalled. Of late, several beacon recalls are active.
— BCA had a recall for their Tracker4 with specific serial number runs. Your beacon has been recalled if you have a Tracker4 with a serial number starting with 21H05 or 21H06 sold after June 1, 2021. You can find more information from BCA here.
— Back Diamond and Pieps have issued a voluntary recall for several models. You can find more specific information on the BD site here.
Check to see if your beacon needs a software/firmware update.
— Mammut/Barryvox Software Updates.
— BD/Pieps can be updated on models with Bluetooth (here’s a 2019 WildSnow piece on updating via BT).
— ARVA: According to the ARVA website, “To date, the only transceivers that have software updates are the Axis, Link, Pro W, and Axio. To update the software, please contact us by filling out the form available HERE.”
— BCA Tracker software updates can be found on this pagee by scrolling to Tracker News and Updates.
While most of the WildSnow backcountry skiing blog posts are best attributed to a single author, some work well as done by the group.