I ride inbounds only (but normally alone)...
I ride inbounds only (but normally alone) and have never felt the need for any sort of avalanche gear, however the recent inbounds avalanches in the Western US have changed my feeling on this. I'm not to familiar with the equipment. If Im only looking to send out a signal to help ski patrol locate me is buying a low end model such as the freeride sufficient?
I've not used this model, but if you are skiing inbounds only this would probably be overkill. An alternative that you might consider is purchasing clothing with the RECCO logo (several items on this site have it) or purchasing a separate tag made by RECCO ($20 or so). The RECCO system is used by many ski resorts to locate avalanche victims. You can go to http://www.recco.com/resorts/north_america.asp to see if your favorite ski resorts use the system and how it works.-------------------To directly answer your question, although I do agree with what has been said above, the Pieps Freeride does an excellent job at sending a signal. So this will work for you, however this beacon does not do well searching for others.-------------------The Recco system is essential a body recovery system. It takes too long to get the equipment on site. If someone is caught in an avalanche, they have a 92% chance of surviving is recovered within 15 minutes. Those chances drop to only 30% after 35 minutes.The first thing a patroller will do when arriving at an avalanche site is do a sweep with their beacon. As such, this is a good beacon for wearing in bounds, where you won't need to look for someone. ---------------------------------------Agree with the last point. Every patroller carries a beacon and can search immediately upon arriving at the scene whereas they will have to send for a RECCO detector (top shack?). Waiting for the RECCO detector to arrive on-scene would be a bummer if you were buried. RECCO is cute, but it's a better 'sales pitch' than practical avie survival. Please keep in mind that despite this winter's unfortunate accidents, it's tremendously unlikely to ever be buried in an in-bounds slide.
RECCO IS NOT AN AVALANCHE RESCUE SYSTEM!!! You need to purchase an avalanche specific rescue beacon, a transceiver (which means that it can both send and receive signals). RECCO is great if you're lost in the woods near a ski resort. It is not suitable for an avalanche rescue scenario.
Ive worked at a ski resort for the past 2 year and both years have witnessed slides that have come in bounds and taken out skiers who were in bounds!