By: randosteve|Posted on: December 23, 2008|Posted in: Broken Link to Photo/Video, Gear, Gear Reviews | 4 comments

Ortovox Up-Box
The Ortovox Up-Box can update your S1
to have the most current firmware.

Ortovox S1 Update ScreenWell, technically version 1.2.2690, but who’s counting. Honestly though, ever go shopping for an avalanche beacon and wonder if the current technology will be obsolete (like your computer) in the next year or two. Fear not, because the Ortovox S1’s firmware is fully update-able, and Ortovox’s avalanche transceiver research and development is designed around it well into the future. I just got my S1 updated, and I’ve noticed some differences right of the bat.

For those unaware, the Ortovox S1 avalanche beacon was launched last season and is one of the new breed of avalanche transceivers that are capable of signal separation. This technology allows for much easier multiple burial searches. Using information obtained from three antennas, a compass and inclinometer, the S1 can differentiate between different beacon signals. It allows a searcher to flag a single beacon (and while someone is digging that one out) and lets them focus on other buried transceivers as they continue down the slide path. The Ortovox S1 makes single burials a piece-of-cake and tremendously simplifies multiple burial searches.

Ortovox US head honcho Marcus Peterson shows
the new S1 features to Reed Finlay.

New and Old Ortovox S1First off, the new S1’s firmware is designed to work better around interference from things like cell phones, I-Pods, radios/walkie talkies and ski lifts. We can preach all we want, but I’m as guilty as the next guy for rocking the tunes on the skin track and/or keeping my phone close by in case of a SAR call-out. It’s nice to see people actually try to make their product better, instead of just preaching that we are all doing something wrong. Technology is the future, why not embrace it!

Second, the actual speed of the entire unit has been increased. Meaning, it analyzes the signals it’s receiving faster and displays the appropriate graphics accordingly…faster as well. This is a really important aspect to the technology because the faster the S1 is, means the more information it can receive, and therefore, the more accurate it can be with its analysis. It’s all about comparing one set of information with another with these new digital beacons…and they need information to do their thinking…just like we do.

Ortovox S1 Update in progress
Ortovox S1 update in progress.

Addition of arrowsThirdly, two graphic tweaks have been made to help in understanding what to do, and to increase speed when in the search function. Now, when the S1 picks up a signal in the course search, it displays an arrow in the direction you need to move to get inline with the target beacon. Though it seemed simple enough in the past to just line up the center line with the target beacon, I can see the logic in making it a bit more intuitive. Also, when in the fine search Arrows have heirarchymode, the hierarchy of graphics has been changed and in the updated version, the outer arrows (indicating you are getting closer or further away from the target beacon) will now be the first thing to indicate your search status. This is a good update because really, the depth of the target beacon is secondary information and you are trying to pin-point a location to dig first. Better to know that I getting closer or further away from it before I know how deep it is.

One thing to note is that your batteries need to be pretty fresh (over 80%) when updating, and the unit also needs to be re-calibrated (as well as when you replace the batteries), an easy task, which I will talk about soon. In the future, there will be 50-55 Ortovox update centers across the country.  The following is a list of those that are currently ready to update your S1…or will be soon.

  • Skinny Skis– Jackson, WY
  • Hoback Sports– Jackson, WY
  • Wilderness Sports– Teton Village, WY
  • Northern Lights– Bozeman, MT
  • Sturtevants– Sun Valley, ID
  • Elephant’s Perch– Sun Valley, ID
  • Lost River Sports– Haily, ID
  • Wasatch Touring– SLC, UT
  • Ute Mountaineer– Aspen, CO
  • Ptarmigan Sports– Edwards, CO
  • Mountain Outfitter– Breckenridge, CO
  • Mammoth Mountaineering– Mammoth, CA

Thinking about buying an Ortovox S1 for yourself…or as a gift for Christmas?
Get it in time for only $19.95 shipping from
or opt for FREE ground shipping!