PIEPS Issues Voluntary Recall of DSP Beacons

By: Jake Fojtik March 09, 2021

Backcountry safety manufacturer PIEPS has announced a “Voluntary Product Correction Program” for their DSP PRO, DSP PRO ICE, and DSP SPORT avalanche transceiver models, nearly a year after reports of apparent malfunctions began spreading on social media.

The DSP line of beacons began attracting attention last year after an incident in the Canadian Rockies involving pro skier Nick McNutt. While filming with Teton Gravity Research near Pemberton, B.C. in March 2020, McNutt’s DSP Pro beacon apparently switched from "send" mode to "off" mode at some point before or during an avalanche that swept him down the mountain and buried him in over a meter of debris. Despite McNutt’s transceiver being turned off, his companions were able to locate him thanks to a lucky probe strike. Pro skier and guide Christina Lustenberger recounted the incident in a four-part Instagram post in October 2020.

The defect in question allows the beacon to easily slide from "send" mode into the "off" or "search" position. This means that the beacon could switch off, or into search mode (where it does not broadcast a signal) without the rider knowing. It doesn’t take much avalanche knowledge to recognize how scary this could be: if you get buried in an avalanche, your beacon could switch off, making it much more difficult for searchers to locate you. While pro skiers, industry professionals, and the general public clamored for a recall, PIEPS pushed back at first, maintaining that their beacons "have undergone vigorous testing and exceed all certification standards."

This latest move, a "Voluntary Product Correction Program," falls short of a full-blown recall. Instead, PIEPS states they have created a redesigned hardcase carrying system that is supposed to hold the beacon in "send" mode more reliably. The program applies to beacons manufactured between 2013 and 2020. In a statement, PIEPS reiterated their faith in the DSP line of beacons, stating that "tests have shown that the lock/switch mechanism on the DSP PRO, DSP PRO ICE, and DSP SPORT meets all relevant safety standards."

Still, from an avalanche safety company, this six-month-late half-measure is too little, too late for some critics. Ortovox, by contrast, issued a precautionary recall on their 3+ beacons in 2018 due to potential software errors. Backcountry Access (BCA), meanwhile, recalled some of their Float Airbag packs in 2013 due to a possible defect in the trigger mechanism.

More in-depth reporting about incidents involving PIEPS DSP beacons can be found here (SKI Magazine), here (Teton Gravity Research), and here (Outside Magazine).