By ROSS SELLERS/Montana State News

If you find yourself skiing in the backcountry, but feel a little rusty with your avalanche rescue gear, you may want to check out Beacon Park.

Located on Beall Street in north Bozeman, the park is meant to help educate backcountry skiers about the importance of those first crucial minutes after an avalanche strikes. Open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. for anyone who wants to sharpen their skills, or learn for the first time.

According to the Bozeman Chronicle, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, and Bozeman Parks and Recreation Department, the park contains four buried avalanche beacons that transmit one-way signals. This provides great practice for prospective backcountry enthusiasts.

Jon Murthaugh – a local skier and a student at Montana State University – remarked on the newly opened park and the dangers of Schlasman’s Ridge, a common backcountry destination at Bridger Bowl. “Knowing the deathly nature of Schlashy’s makes a place where people can learn to properly use a beacon a necessity.”

Use of the park is free to skiers who bring their own equipment. “Knowing how to use your gear, and carrying the right gear is really important,” said Avalanche Center Director Doug Chabot. “Beacon Park provides great practice because you can do single beacon rescue, or several at once,” which places emphasis on the importance of speedy recovery.

While the park is not expected to start offering beginner avalanche awareness classes until February, Chabot notes that there are “all sorts of classes, all over” and urged interested parties to go to the center’s website and consult the education calendar for more information.

“We are seeing a big increase in back-country skiing and back-country access through ski areas.” Chabot remarked that it is, “really important to get [avalanche] education.”

Season pass sales at Bridger Bowl Ski Area have skyrocketed over the last few years, with a “whopping 46 percent increase from the 2012-13 season to the 2015-16 season” according to Doug Wales director of marketing at Bridger. He attributes the increase to the two new lifts that have opened on the north side of the mountain.

– Edited by Allison Erwin

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