Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
We’ll, one less backcountry skiing thing to wonder about.
|Snowpulse avalanche airbag system. Photo from Snowpulse website.|
Swiss company Snowpulse has come up with an airbag system that inflates around your head, thus forming a support to prevent cervical injuries as well as providing padding against head trauma. More, the bag might create an air pocket since it takes up volume in front of your face, then deflates after the avalanche. This looks like a good advance in avalanche safety equipment — with the usual airbag downsides of weight, little to no choice in pack variety, etc. Website here.
The system is said to weigh 3 Kg including pack; 1,300 gr alone.
Avalanche airbags emphasize an interesting dilemma that’s as old as the hills; that of choosing how much money, weight and inconvenience one wants to suffer for increased safety. Or at least to get the feeling of more safety. Indeed, it is well known that human beings will tend to increase their risk level as they add safety equipment, thus cancelling out some if not much of any gains. More, the weight of an airbag system could invoke safety altering choices such as leaving a rope behind, or carrying less basic equipment.
Nonetheless I view this sort of innovation as a positive trend. Avalanches kill far too often, and many people do practice a conservative approach that is only enhanced by having technology such as beacons, shovels, and now perhaps an improved airbag system from Snowpulse.