(530) 582-0909 | 11400 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161 | Open Daily 8am-6pm! [email protected]
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Mike's Ski Tours Menu

Looking for awesome ski and splitboard tours in the Sierras? We've got write ups on many common and uncommon tours curated by the owner of the BackCountry, Mike Schwartz.

The Backcountry

11400 Donner Pass Rd
Truckee, CA 96161
Open Daily from 8am-6pm
[email protected]

Beacon, Shovel, Probe, and More

Everything You Need to get started in  the Backcountry

Avalanche Transceiver (AKA Beacon)

An avalanche transceiver is one of three pivotal pieces of safety gear. They are worn close to the body and emit a continuous radio signal that can be picked up by other transceivers in the area. In the event of an avalanche, companions with transceivers can switch them to “search” mode to locate a buried person’s signal. Used in combination with a probe, well-educated users can pinpoint exactly where a victim is buried.

Personal Locator Beacon ≠ Avalanche Transceiver


A shovel can be a multi-purpose tool in the backcountry. Maybe you want to dig a snow pit, make a small platform, or even dig out a snow couch. It’s functional as well as being a safety tool to dig someone out in the event there is an avalanche.

When shopping for a backcountry shovel, ensure you select a shovel that is light and packable yet big enough to serve its intended purpose. Be sure to opt for a larger blade, metal construction, and a comfortable handle.


A probe is used as the name suggests, to probe the snow and find a buried victim after a fine search with your transceiver. You can also use your probe to gauge the snow depth. You want a probe with a minimum length of 240 cm. For our Tahoe maritime snow pack, we suggest between 260 cm and 300 cm.

AIARE 1 Course

Last but certainly not least, the AIARE 1 is a three-day class that introduces students to avalanche hazard management. You can expect to develop a good base knowledge in how to prepare for and carry out a backcountry trip, understand basic decision making while in the field, and to learn rescue techniques required for victim recovery and burial. 

If you are just getting started, you can typically rent gear from your local ski shop for these courses. However, it can be beneficial to have your own gear as it allows you to familiarize yourself with it.


For local AIARE Courses and more, we recommend checking out our local instructor network that includes; Bliss Wilderness or Alpine Skills International.

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