The best you can afford. Make sure it is set up to the new frequency standards (don't buy an older, used one!). You probably should go to a store and test drive a few.
By the way, most avalanche victims die if they are caught. The transceiver is more often used to find the body. So invest in a good avalanche course to not get into trouble in the first place. You'll also find out about the transceivers and how to use one.
Doing a professional course is good advice, Moni, and that should be done unconditionally.
But it's not true that most victims die if they are caught. People have a good chance to survive if found in the first 15 minutes after the event.
Just an example from Austrian season 2004/2005:
.) 148 avalanche events were reported (assumption is, the number of unreported events is 2-3 times as high, where the mountaineers helped themselves and didn't report to police or mountain rescue teams),
.) at these 148 events 353 people were buried,
233 of them were found non injured, most of them in the first 15 minutes,
72 of them were found injured but survived (most of them also found in the first 15 minutes)
48 died (most of them caught in the snow for more than 30 minutes).
However, back to the question:
If someone needs to buy her/his first scanner this season, I think the best currently is Pieps DSP. It is easy to use and has the currently best multiple burial search mode.
It costs around 320 Euros (basic model, without compass, temperature display and altimeter) and from my point of view is worth every cent.
You can find a review <a href="http://www.telemarkski.com/html/rvw_lib01_495015.html"><b>here.</b></a>
Maybe next year, when Ortovox comes out with their revolutionary new scanner <a href="http://www.ortovox.com/typo7/index.php?id=12&L=1">Ortovox S1</a> the cards will be played differently again:
Wow, that's interesting, and I'm quite surprised!
But something must be different in the comparison, because US and Canada together are a lot bigger than Austria (even if you only take the mountainregions into account). I can't believe that there were only 61 people caught in such an area, while in little Austria 353 people were caught (although last year was an especially bad one in Austria because of the snowmasses, but 100 to 200 is normal here).
Therefore I looked to find a comparison between European countries, and <a href="http://www.avalanchemapping.org/Repapers/IKARpeoplerescuedfromavalanches.pdf">found this for 2003/2004,</a> which is also very interesting, because Austria has the most events in this statistic, with the highest percentage of people found alive.
However, a very detailed and interesting report about avalanche saison 2004/2005 in Austria <a href="http://bergrettung.at/uploads/statistik/LawinenAnalyse2004-05.pdf"> can be found here.</a>
Maybe there are more emergency calls about avalanche accidents here, and there are also many emergency teams around in the ski resorts (with avalanche trained dogs in helicopters and so on).
But it really surprises me, that there are only so few reports in the US and Canada.
I am planing to buy DSP this season. When I am touring I usually rent a transceiver in my club. Maybe sounds crazy, but I am not concern to be burried and eventualy die. I don't like option that my partner is burried and I can't find him because I don't have transceiver and his sending signals. I can't imagine to face his family and try to explain why i couldn't help. So, less beer, good beacon, and more training could be intelligent move. Z
herbie: the really remote areas are very inaccessible during winter, which keeps most people out of trouble. The statistics seem low, but only because people do not have the access to all the remote places as Austria (and most of the Alps) does. Given that the majority of fatalities seem to be among snowmobilers (and is rising) it's good that so many areas still remain off limits.