Okay, you $1,000 backcountry skiers out there, can we stay on-budget and add an avalanche beacon to our booty pile? Fancy digital beacons eat up your budget. But there is an alternative. Older analog beacons such as the Peips 457 are still a totally functional choice if you’re planning on moderate levels of slide risk while backcountry skiing, and they’re available new and used for reasonable prices. Best place to start shopping is Ebay. Just search for the term “avalanche beacon.” Our family used the Pieps 457 for quite a few years and we’re happy with it, so that’s a budget alternative we recommend. If you go this route do two things: Learn how to do an analog beacon search (kind of fun and really not that tough), and test your send/receive range with all your companion’s beacons.
Analog beacons require more practice to use effectively for backcountry skiing avalanche rescue. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know that the cost of “price point” beacons continues to fall so purchasing a fully digital multi-antenna beacon can be a better option.
In other shopping action today: Backcountry skis? Simple. Stay under budget by getting a pair of used boards at a swap, or from your friend’s attic ski stash (they’ll never miss ’em). Look for skis at least about 70mm under the foot, fairly short, and with a smooth limber flex. My favorite budget backcountry ski is the venerable K2 Four. Thousands of these planks are still in rental fleets and thrift shops over the world. Play it right and you can probably find a pair for free. Don’t worry about a few sets of binding holes — the things are so strong you could use them for leaf springs on a 4×4.
Lastly, more about budget ski touring bindings. You can usually find AT bindings on Ebay this time of year. Avoid all the older Silvrettas (model 404 or lower) and leave those for antique collectors or climbers that need bindings for welted mountaineering boots. Nearly any Fritschi Diamir is viable, but avoid the original model Titanal in favor of the Titanal 2 or 3. Avoid Dynafit bindings if you’re on a tight budget, as they limit your boot choices.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.