With our Avy Awareness Night going on this week, a lot of our vendors are in town to attend. We had a clinic with Marcus Petersen at the shop yesterday and I got a good dose of the Ortovox kool-aid. Honestly, I’ve been interested to hear the spiel again on the S1 since getting some improvements from last year. I held out to buy one this season, but I’m thinking about throwing down for one this year. Feel free to get with Marcus at the event if you have your own questions.
Overall the S1 has a very sleek design and seems to be one of the smaller avalanche transceivers out there. Its rounded corners fit nicely in your hand and the tabs to open it have been relocated to make it easier. The operating buttons are placed vertically now (last year they were horizontal) and they are easier to operate with your thumb. I like the new on/off switch on the outside, that way you can turn it on once it’s in the harness. Sometimes I like to wear my transceiver without having it turned on and this avoids having to open the S1 to turn it on. If you want to see all the self check and battery level graphics though, you will have to open it up. If I remember correctly, there may have been an audible beep that indicats battery power, so you could get an idea of what your levels are with it closed…but don’t call me out on it. One note on turning on the Ortovox S1. The computer inside needs a little space to get itself lined out during start-up, so turning it on when your hugging your honey who’s already “beeping” is not recommended. Might only be a problem with other Romeo’s of the world, but I think at least I can handle it.
The harness is pretty standard and comes with a keeper leash. The power indicator lights are visible through a small window so you can double check your status when the time is right. The S1 immediately goes into receive mode when you open the door and it has a motion detector/auto-revert mode that you can set to 30-60-90 or 120 seconds. Meaning…when you are in recieve mode and stop moving for the selected time duration (like when you get buried by some hangfire during a search), the S1 will revert back to transmit. Proper handling of the beacon is directly in front and close to your chest, with an attempt to keep it parallel to the slope. You DO NOT want to swing or rotate the unit.
As you got through your coarse search and get closer to the victims, body images appear on the screen and a distance reading is displayed below the image. Due to the S1’s ability to have true signal-separation between multiple victums, it can handle two and three person burials with ease. If offers a special-mode for 4+ burials that helps to differentiate the signals even more so. The center of the images on the LCD are marked with a triangle. During multiple burials, you want to line up the grid line and head towards the bigger triangle until you reach the pin-point search. After locating the first victim, you can flag it and then focus on the second burial without being distracted by too much information. The S1 has feelings, and if at any time it senses things moving too fast, it tells you by displaying a hand telling you to stop.
The LCD display changes to a circle with a number inside it as you enter the pin-point search mode. The circles get smaller and the number decreases as you get closer. Seems simple enough, because it really is. After a brief familiarization with the working of the buttons, even the most novice user can post sub 5 minute, 2 and 3 person burials. It is that easy. And at 70M, the S1 has a pretty darn good range compared to other digital beacons out there.
In the Menu mode, the S1 lets you choose between regular and 4+ burial modes. If offers a compass, thermometer and inclinometer. The S1 has a buddy check mode to quickly check your group’s transceiver status, as well as an analog mode in case you just have to be old-school…like if there is just way too much electrical interference buzzing around from transformers, power lines and other non-mountain related stuff. The Tools section gives you options like auto-revert mode and you will be able to upgrade the S1 via a infra-red PC hook-up port. I think Skinny Skis is going to be a hub for that kind of stuff around here down the road.
Some may think that some of these features are gimmicks or extras, but the S1 uses everyone of these sensors (like inclination and compass) to determine the location of the buried victims, or else it wouldn’t be able to sell it in Europe. It’s that high tech.