How Does Avalanche Beacon Work?

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To make the best out of your skiing or snowboarding experience, three vital tools cannot be overlooked. These include a shovel, a probe and ultimately, an avalanche beacon. You don’t want to get stuck or unaware of whether you are getting hit by an avalanche or not. In simpler sense, an avalanche beacon can be just that single tool that will make a huge difference when an avalanche comes striking.

Certainly, every year, snowboard and skiing enthusiasts look forward to getting their feet on the mountain snows. And when the forecast gives a prediction of a heavy downfall of snow, for skiers and snowboarders, nothing seems more exciting. The fantasy of having it all drenched in the thick mountain snows start to build up. However, the other side of things which most beginners are not always abreast of is that, sometimes the overall experience in these heavy snows aren’t all bed of roses. Such risks as avalanche are some of the things you are probable to encounter especially during the skylark days which comes immediately after a heavy snow fall. As such, most mountain goers don’t even think of going up there with an avalanche beacon and this is far too dangerous.

Backcountry Access Tracker3Burial Indicator LightPRICING
Pieps Pro BTSelf-check FeaturePRICING
Black Diamond Guide BT60 meters Digital RangePRICING
Arva Evo4Group Check FeaturePRICING

What is an Avalanche Beacon?

Now to what avalanche beacon is. Avalanche beacon is the casual name for an avalanche transceiver. It is a device which transmits signal through which rescuers can use to easily locate someone caught up in an avalanche. It is one of the most important survival tools during any winter travel.

How it Works

The principle of working of an avalanche transceiver is simple. When it sends off a signal at 457 KHz, at this frequency, some other transceivers can thus detect it. It is important that the mountain goer sets it off as soon as the journey to the backcountry starts so that it can transmit signals. Suppose an avalanche hits and the victim gets caught and buried in the avalanche, a companion or rescuers’ beacon can easily zero in on the victim’s signal for quick rescue. From there, using the shovel and probe to clear off the snow can be done with exactness and accuracy.

As cool and vital this piece of tech is, it’s certainly not the ultimate tool to level your decision to go out or not. As you know, a beacon will only save you if there is someone else holding one of it is also around. So again, forecasts are great, but when your instincts say otherwise, you should know when to turn back if necessary.

While you might be fazed with a lot of questions, this guide will certainly bring your answers. But first, you need to know what to look for when making your selection.

Digital Range: your avalanche beacon’s range informs you of the distance its signal can be able to scan anytime you search at a particular time. The best transceivers will come with at least 40 meters range and can go to as high as 60 meters or more. This of course affords you of high efficiency and allows you to scan a larger area easily. You should go for beacons that offer large width and sufficiently high range especially if you are just trying out a beacon for the first time.

Antennas: it is ideal and best for your choice of avalanche beacon to come with multiple antennas. With multiple antennas, it can search in multiple directions at the same time especially when you are in emergency and losing out on time. Three antennas provide searches though three directions like left or right, forward or backward, and up or down.

Display: the display functionality is also a vital thing to consider. Vision can pose a great issue especially when buried under avalanche and in conditions of little light exposure. For the best experience, a high-performance avalanche should come with a clear and crisp display; and if it comes with backlight, that will be a huge plus.

Multiple burial functionality: Avalanche situation can get really worse so much that one can be when faced with more than a single burial. Hence, the need for beacons to come with marking features which allows rescuers to search for more than a single victim. As such, the other team members can dig out victims as the avalanche beacon progressively performs the search.

We understand how important an avalanche beacon is and we have crafted this easy guide for you. This is to help you in not only making your purchase but also in showing you vital features to check out in your new safety piece. Whether you are that all out mountain skier or a pro backcountry snowboarder, we are here to help you get the best out of your purchase. The perfect beacon is just waiting right here to be purchased by you!

1. Backcountry Access Tracker3 Avalanche Transceiver

Released two years after its announcement in February 2016, the Backcountry Access Tracker3 comes as a huge improvement to the Tracker2. It is a 3-antenna transceiver made by the notable company, Backcountry Access (BCA). It integrates all the features with the Tracker2 all in one piece. It is a lot lighter and smaller by 20% and is perhaps the slimmest transceiver you will find out there.

It features a couple of burial indicator light which allows you to be aware as to whether one or more persons has been stuck under a slide within few meters radius around you. It also comes with real-time display, a digital display which gives you an accurate information about your direction and distance.

Having enough transceiver power which will last you for a long time is important and as such, the Tracker3 features a three strong AAA alkaline battery to carry you through. The battery can keep the transceiver on for 200 hours in transmit mode and still serve you with a minimum of one hour in search mode. To switch on or off, you’d find the control on top of it. Now, it gives a kind of noise to give you an indication that is up and running.

It has been built to offer you the best ergonomics. Its shape is compact and fitting to easily hold in the hand, the design offers you great comfort and fantastic user experience. It covers a range of 50 meters and when things get really messy in the backcountry, you can trust this Tracker3 to get you through.


  • Designed to offer great ergonomics
  • Strong AAA alkaline battery
  • Burial indicator light
  • A digital display
  • Lightweight and small


  • Might take a bit of time to get used to

2. Pieps Pro BT Beacon

The Pieps company have taken the shape of things in the avalanche beacon industry to a whole new level with their Pieps Pro BT Beacon. This top performing beacon comes as one of the best avalanche beacons with increased features and functionality. Its simple and direct intuitive way of operating it allows for a short time of learning how to use it. Also helps the reliability level especially when pressure builds on you when under such distress scenario under the pile. It is the go-to avalanche beacon for a regular backcountry traveler.

 It comes with a three-antenna design which offers a high precision accuracy where which you can easily zero-in on a nearby beacon of a trapped traveler. It’s search range and accuracy are far better than the two-antenna avalanche beacons.

The Pieps Pro BT beacons also features a multiple burial function as well as an ability for flagging. This implies you can seamlessly placemark a located victim while your partner can start the digging out. This way you are able to maximize time in locating other trapped victims. More interesting is its Victim Selection feature which runs scan of the whole surrounding area and shows the closes.

Suppose you get suck and covered in hangfire while the receive mode is still the current setting of your beacon, it automatically reverts back into send mode after a while. This will allow your rescuers to easily pick up your signal and locate you. Furthermore, the Pied Pro BT is self-scanning such that it checks and reviews all the software and panels inside of it so as to ensure the beacon is at its best functionality.


  • Comes with a carrying pouch
  • Self-check feature
  • Can automatically switches to receive mode for quick locating by rescuers
  • Three-antenna design
  • Victim selection feature


  • The plastic covering may break easily

3. Black Diamond Guide BT Avalanche Beacon

The Black Diamond Guide BT is a solid and comfortable avalanche beacon option which provides you with a reliable and comfortable grip. It comes with features you will see in other high-end transceivers and even with added functionality.

Like the Pieps Pro BT, it also comes with three antennas to offer even more sensitivity that surpasses that of any double antenna avalanche beacon. The amazing thing about the Black Diamond is that it has a wide range of coverability up to as high as 60 meters just like the Pieps Pro BT.

It boasts of a Bluetooth functionality which allows you to take control of your settings, updates and important optimizations. It also features a mark and scan functionality. This feature helps to mark a located victim while you run a scan to locate other victims.

The Black Diamond Guide BT features a digital signal processor which gives you accurate representation of the running processes within the beacon, the scans, as well as the signal strength. A major feature of this avalanche beacon is its inclinometer which measures and shows your angle of inclination in relation to the victim especially from a horizontal. It is compatible and works well with the iProbe and TX600.

Also, the Black diamond comes with three AAA batteries for increased usage time and offers you approximately 400 hours when the it is in send mode. Altogether, the Black Diamond is a great choice and will certainly be up to task.


  • Three AAA batteries
  • 60 meters digital range
  • Inclinometer
  • Three antennas
  • High compatibility with iProbe and TX600


  • Available only in black color

4. Arva Evo4 Avalanche Beacon

If you are looking for an avalanche beacon with a simplistic design and yet, great performance, you should look no further. The Evo4 Beacon from Arva is comes with a couple of functionalities that makes it even a better option than most high rated avalanche beacons. It is a good transceiver to turn to in emergency situations.

It features a triple antenna for increased sensitivity and accuracy. However, its digital range is quite low at 40 meters. It is also designed with the victim marking functionality which indicates multiple buried victims within an area and you can mark each victim and go on searching the area. From other beacons by Arva, the Evo4 has been redesigned better with even crisp digital LCD display screen.

The Evo4 is designed with the group check feature which ensures the beacon is well synchronized with other beacons within your group. Another feature is its clip for safe which functions by turning on the beacon as soon as you clip it to the holster that came with it. It comes with 4 AAA batteries which are LR03 alkaline. This battery is claimed to last you for 250 hours of use.


  • Four AAA alkaline battery
  • Group check feature
  • Three antennas
  • Clip for safe


  • Low digital range of 40 meters


Adventures on the snow can really get interesting and at the same time, get messy. One moment, you are up enjoying the experience in the snow, another moment, you are lost, deep down in an avalanche. You certainly shouldn’t go out into the snow without an avalanche beacon as your survival may greatly depend on it. The above list of top avalanche beacons has been carefully selected to offer you the best and to ensure that your experience in the snow doesn’t get marred in the process.

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