WildSnow editor’s note: If you’ve tracked avalanche safety gear over the past decades, you know that claims and counterclaims have flown like artillery shells in the battle for market share. In our opinion, that was just a skirmish compared to what’s going to happen with a high dollar and potentially high profit item like an avy airbag backpack. One such bombshell is the claim that airbags deploying to the sides of your head will make it difficult to ski away from or out of a slide. Apparently, that’s a myth and we are here to make that clear. Thanks Nick!
The airbags of avalanche airbag packs come in a variety of styles. Some are like pillows behind your head, others like wings out the pack sides. The Snowpulse Lifebag system uses an airbag that opens out of the shoulder straps, and when inflated, wraps around your head and chest. This is intended to offer some degree of trauma protection — a good idea in view of how violent avalanches can be, or is it? Many have claimed that Snowpulse bag configuration hinders your view while you’re still upright and on your skis, which could make it difficult to ski out of a slide (a fairly dicy proposition in many cases, but it does happen.)
After skiing with a Lifebag inflated around my head, I can say that obstruction of vision is a non issue. Yes, your far peripheral view is somewhat blocked, but you still have plenty of vision to ski. To demonstrate, I had some friends film (and laugh at) me on the lower slopes of Sopris, video below.
Yeah, not the most exciting skiing, perhaps I should have filmed myself charging a steep line or pounding some bumps (Aspen reopens this weekend), but I’m confident I could. The only hindrance is the extra wind resistance.