A Bevvy of Avalanche Beacons

ISPO" A battle royal is shaping up between the Germans in the form of Ortovox and the Swiss represented by Mammut and the battle field is user friendly three antenna avalanche beacons. There are also updates for the Nic-Impex range but this is more one of evolution rather than revolution.

mammut pulse
Mammut Pulse - the lever simulates body movement

Mammut Pulse

Mammut were demonstrating the Pulse which looks more like a personal organizer than a beacon. The Pulse comes in a rugged and small black and red box with a large dot-matrix display. The Pulse can analyze all the signals from beacons within range displaying information about each “victim”. This is where the Pulse bit comes in, if the victim is also wearing a Pulse beacon it will detect the wearer’s chest movement and show it on the searcher’s beacon. It will also show if other users within range are already searching for the victim. Once a beacon has been selected a 360º compass type arrow is displayed indicating the shortest direction to the victim.

Within the limited confines of the Mammut stand the Pulse certainly performed as claimed and made multi-victim searches almost a no-brainer. Daniel Forrer, an engineer from Mammut’s R&D company Ascom say that some finalization of the software is required but the beacon should be ready for production by the end of the summer. The Pulse has won the Volvo Sports Design award.

Further Information: Mammut Pulse

Ortovox S1 and d3

The Ortovox S1, announced last year in a blaze of publicity could be the beacon to stop the Pulse. However there has been a year’s delay in development of the Ortovox S1 due to software and hardware problems. The S1 is a three antenna design similar to Mammut Pulse and Pieps DSP.

The S1 is certainly the most futuristic of the new transceivers, resembling a “Star-Trek” communicator and its operation continues this theme. When the S1 boots up, instead of displaying just the direction to each victim within range, their geographic location is shown with the location of the searcher indicated by a cross hair. The searcher simply has to move over the search site until the cross-hair is above the beacon symbol. The beacon is in final development but the version we tested on the Ortovox stand worked fine for a two beacon search. Release date is set for November 2006.

Ortovox d3
Ortovox d3 triple antenna beacon

Ortovox has a second weapon. The d3 is a more traditional looking Ortovox beacon, very similar to the X1, however it has three antennas. Unlike the X1 the d3 is a totally digital device and has a display indicator to show if there are multiple victims within the receive range. The display and operation are very straightforward. Distance is given by two LEDs and the direction to be followed shown by three arrows.

With over 50% of the worldwide market and with some beacons well into their second decade of use backwards compatibility is extremely important for Ortovox and they say that both the d3 and S1 interoperate with all other models using the standard 457KHz frequency. I asked Ortovox’s Franz Kröll whether we had reached the limits of the 457KHz signal and the EN 300 71 B standard. He firmly believed that further improvements would be possible both in terms of performance and ease of use.

Further Information:
Ortovox S1
Ortovox d3

Nic-Impex Evolution+ and A.D.vanced

At Savoyard manufacturer Nic-Impex the emphasis is one of evolution not revolution. The consumer model Arva Evolution+ gains a second antenna to become a truly directional beacon and is now housed in the same case as the Arva A.D.vanced.

The A.D.vanced also has two antenna and a 16 bit processor. It handles the multiple victim problem by splitting the search area into 10 user selectable concentric search rings. The user can scan each ring looking for signals. Once a ring is selected the beacon will stay locked onto the beacon(s) that were found ignoring other signals. All of the Nic-Impex safety gear is now marketed under the ARVA brand and both beacons are in production. The name ARVA is synonymous with avalanche beacons in France. Impex have recently changed their US importer to Life Link and has been very satisfied with sales shipping close to 1000 beacons last season.

Further Information:
Arva Evolution+
Arva A.D.vanced

Backcountry Access Tracker DTS

There were no changes for the BCA Tracker DTS which underwent a revision last year. Bruce McGowan, president of BCA says it is for other manufacturers to play “catch-up”. He was confident that the Tracker provided the performance and ease of use that backcountry enthusiasts demand and believes that this is reflected in sales. The Tracker DTS is not only number one in its home American market but also in many European countries where it faces stiff local competition. However Bruce said that BCA were monitoring developments closely, particularly the new three antenna beacons.

Further Information: Tracker DTS

Posted by davidof on Thursday, 02 February, 2006 at 05:43 PM

We have spoken to an Ortovox rep last week about the S1 and D3. The Ortovox d3 is nearly ready with some refinements being made to the fine search mode. As for the S1, he showed me a working prototype but said that he didn’t think it would be ready for the target date for the start of the 2006/7 season but couldn’t tell me more than that.

Posted by davidof on  Saturday, 29 April, 2006  at 10:56 AM

When is the s1 coming out; and is it state of the art?
mary ann

Posted by mary Ann Majchrzak Rombach on  Saturday, 27 January, 2007  at 06:11 AM

It is supposed to be out at the start of February. I checked my local store and they didn’t have any more precise information.

The main competitors are the latest update of the Pieps DSP. This has a new feature that can test beacons for frequency drift around the 457khz standard. As beacons drift off frequency with age and knocks their transmissions loose range so this is quite a handy feature although a range test can give you similar information.

The Barryvox Pulse mentioned above still looks like the best of the latest beacons, especially as it is available and 329 euros, much cheaper than the S1.

Posted by davidof on  Tuesday, 30 January, 2007  at 12:23 AM
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