When it comes to being in the backcountry safety is a top priority.

“I’d say, if I showed up and missed a piece of safety gear, it didn’t make it in the car I probably wouldn’t go,” skier Tad Denning said. “It’s hard to enjoy yourself up there when you know you’re not prepared.”

Denning and his friends were just a few of the dozens of people playing in the powder at Turnagain Pass on Friday.

They packed their bags with avalanche essentials. “Shovel and probe. Ready to rock,” Denning said.

Then they turned on their avalanche beacons to make sure the batteries were charged and everything was in working order.

Avalanche experts said that’s a key part of being prepared — knowing how to use emergency gear.

Forest Service staff were also out training with their equipment.

“You have to practice a lot so your muscle memory works when you’re in the heat of the moment,” said Wendy Wagner, director of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

Wagner said practicing with your probe and beacon is easy and can be done in the parking lot before you go out.

To demonstrate, she buried a backpack with a beacon inside and it was up to her teammate and avalanche specialist Graham Predeger to find it.

Predeger switched his beacon from the transmit mode to the search mode and followed the arrows.

“Make sure the numbers are getting smaller. The smaller they get the closer I’m getting to the beacon,” he explained.

Once he found the site, Predeger pulled out his shovel and probe, marking the location.

“I leave my probe in place, grab my shovel and dig into it and there it is,” he said, pulling up the black backpack. “For a single avalanche victim in an ideal scenario like this practice should take two to three minutes to find,” he said.

Wagner said people should practice the skills with the hope they’ll never actually have to use them, but in an emergency the training could save a life. The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center has several avalanche safety related events scheduled in coming weeks.

KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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