I have never ridden back country before and was thinking of hitting up Loveland pass sometime in the next few weeks. My questions are:
1. Do I need a shovel?
2. Do I need a beacon?
3. Anything I need to know before I head out?
If I were riding anywhere else besides Loveland pass, I would by all means have a beacon and a shovel - but Loveland pass is pretty crowded for back country...So I'd imagine that the avalanche danger is quite low. But I'm not sure - so I figure it's better to ask 1st.
Didn't want to drop a ton of $$ on snow gear just to ride Loveland pass if it's not needed.
3. Loveland is a complete shit show. Lot's of people there riding without any avy gear or knowledge. It's mostly dumb luck that more people are not killed there. Keep in mind that there has been a death on that pass at least once
a season for the past 3 or 4 years. Lot's of close calls surrounding that. There are some "safer" lines around there, but no gaurantees. You can be riding in a reasonably safe zone, doing laps, and move a bit further about by less than a dozen yards and be in very dangerous avalanche terrain.
Another problem at Loveland is people dropping in on slopes above you triggering a slide that takes you out. Lot's of close calls with that one have occurred on the pass over the years.
Most of the time you will be safe. Just keep in mind what Bruce Tremper says about riding in avalanche terrain (paraphrased a little). "90% of the time what ever slopes you ride will be safe whe in avalanche. 10% of the time you'll get a slide." Sounds pretty safe right? To put it in perspective, on your 10th drop you'll get caught in a slide. Not very good odds.
I honestly think you can get by at Loveland Pass without gear, but you really have to know how to read avalanche terrain to make sure you are riding slopes that are stable 99% of the time. If you get fully buried without any gear, your next step will be a body bag.
Sorry about the sermon. I've seen bodies being pulled out of backcountry from avalanche incidents. It sucks. If you have more questions shoot me a pm.