Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
I wear a Black Diamond Avalung. Perhaps you should too.
But what are the chances your Avalung will save your life?
That minor detail is of course unknown at this time, because Avalungs have not been used for a long enough time by enough people to develop meaningful real-world statistics.
Nonetheless, as of today’s Denver Post article about the bizarre three-person avalanche burial and survival a few weeks ago, the Avalung has achieved celebrity status as THE life saving device for avalanche burial. Leave it up to a newspaper to over-hype the wrong part of the story. (Most importantly, getting three people buried at once was an inexcusable mistake that puts these guys at the level of the Three Stooges when it comes to avalanche safety.)
“The victim was (or was not) wearing a seat belt.” That’s of course a standard line in automobile accident reporting, ostensibly as a sort of PSA to promote seat belt use. Now, I’m thinking with avalanche accident reports we’re going to get something like “the victim was (was not) wearing an Avalung.”
That type of attention could of cut either way. If lots of survivors are wearing Avalungs during their accident, celebrity status will remain intact and positive. But what if the hype continues, combined with reports about people dying while wearing their Avalung?
A large percentage of people in snow slides die from trauma rather than suffocation, and even those who survive frequently receive serious (sometimes life changing) injuries. For example, I was just watching a first-person account by a survivor — he shared how strange it looked to have both feet up behind his head.
So, wear an Avalung if you choose to do so, they work well in certain situations. But beware the hype — especially if you don’t know much about avalanche safety and are looking for the technological solution. Celebrities have a way of falling off their pedestal.