Snowpulse, the Avalanche Airbag We’ve Been Waiting For?

Post by blogger | July 2, 2007      

WildSnow avalanche airbags category listing for backcountry skiing.

Airbag backpacks.

In snow avalanches, injuries kill nearly as frequently as suffocation. Thus, we’ve long wondered if avalanche airbag systems couldn’t be better designed to protect you as well as float you.

We’ll, one less backcountry skiing thing to wonder about.

Snowpulse avalanche airbag system.
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.


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14 Responses to “Snowpulse, the Avalanche Airbag We’ve Been Waiting For?”

  1. adam olson July 2nd, 2007 6:41 am

    hey lou,

    have you seen the ABS avalanche airbag on the web? I first heard about it in a story out of Telluride. There was a large gathering of avalanche pros there and the ABS pack was demonstrated. The website (Im sorry for not being able to link the site) has some interesting data. There have been well over 100 people who have been swept away in large avalanches in Europe who, wearing the ABS pack, surfaced and survived. The video shows one test of the pack where SEVEN inflated packs attached to maniquans. Explosives were set off and down the slope they go. The slide was at least a class III. All air bags were visable (they are red) during the slide. All seven packs were on the surface near the toe of the slide. They (ABS) are claiming a 98% mortality rate!! There is a log of incidents over the past 3 or 4 winters involving avalanches and the ABS airpack. It suprises me how many groups are caught in Europe. The only deaths resulted from pilot error (forgetting air canister, or trigger) while wearing the ABS pack in an avalanche. Not alot of trees on the Euro slopes.

    The airbag pack you show looks like it was designed by a North American engineer. The great head protection might even eliminate the need for a helmet!? I wonder about the deflated airbag around your face, asphixiation any one?


  2. Lou July 2nd, 2007 7:07 am

    Hi Adam, yes indeed I’m aware of the other ABS system. I should have linked to it as it’s a proven product. I’ll do so. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. Halsted July 2nd, 2007 7:34 am

    Yeah, I really like this design. I really like how the bag will deflate after the avalanche, in order to give a victim breathing room.

  4. Matus July 2nd, 2007 8:29 am

    Maybe, once the airbag will be considered a standard equipment such as beacon, shovel and probe.

  5. Mark Worley July 4th, 2007 12:56 pm
  6. Skinny D July 6th, 2007 3:14 am

    Hi, where can I buy one of these puppies and how much will they cost? I had a look at the snowpulse website and theres a bit of info there but unless I’m missing something no way to buy.

    I’m figuring their website is up there to drum up some interest before its launched in the shops, any idea when this is?

    Also what are the issues with taking canisters of compressed gas equiped with a pyrotechnic charge on an airplane? I’d hate to fork out a whack of money only to have to leave it in the airport lockers everytime I try to go on a ski holiday.

    Cheers, Dave

  7. Lou July 6th, 2007 5:08 am

    Dave, as far as I know there is no dealer in North America, and indeed their distribution might not be happening yet. They won a government development grant and that’ll help. It’s a typical Euro website, long on design and short on information.

    My understanding is that the compressed gas charge might be more user friendly than existing units, and not have pyrotechnics. I think the idea is that it can be traveled with empty, and filled at the destination, thus eliminating travel problems.

  8. pierre-yves July 30th, 2007 8:26 am

    I am glad there is already persons speaking about Snowpulse system. The Snowpulse team works hard to homologate its products and to put in on the market next winter. The price will be around 800 Euro. It’s also not pyrotechnic at all.
    Yes I agree with you, we don’t provide so much information about the sales, we are focusing right now on managing the production for next winter.
    You will find more info before the winter on our website

    I wish you a nice summer and will be happy to read your (good or bad) comments on our products next winter.

    With my best regards

    Pierre-Yves Guernier
    Snowpulse CTO

  9. George T January 6th, 2008 8:26 pm

    Lou: This looks like good life insurance. Personally, it makes more sense to me than Avalung. Hell, my wife will insist upon it once the price and weight come down. I think weight and price are the big issues for most of us.

  10. Mark Davidian January 8th, 2008 12:26 am

    I went to the snopulse website (jan 2008) and still no north american distribution. Maybe next year?

  11. shan February 28th, 2008 2:10 pm

    A guy named Chuck distributes the SnowPulse in Canada, but I haven’t been able to find out specifics of how to purchase one here in the states. I will let everyone know when I figure it out!

  12. Chris-C'dale January 3rd, 2009 8:02 pm

    Hi Lou. So what do you think of this snowpulse? Like carrying 3/4 or so of a gallon of water, plus what you drink! Could it really be considered failsafe?Let me know what your takes are on it. Thanks-

  13. Zoom September 12th, 2010 12:13 pm

    A Snow Pulse air bag saved my life! I was caught in a slide while skiing solo near Oscar peak north of Terrace BC. The slide carried me down about 1500 ft. On the way down I had a tremendous impact while sliding head first on my back. Without the air bag around my head I would have been smashed..As the slide slowed you could feel the pack pulling me. Waves of snow washed over me but the pack kept pulling and my head and left arm were above the snow when the slide stopped moving. I have been skiing with the SnowPulse pack for two years and will continue to wear one for as long as I ski the backcountry. This pack should be standard equipment for every backcountry skier, it saved my life for sure.
    To purchase a SnowPulse air bag please contact Chuck Gordon af Avalanche Safety Solutions email

  14. Gerry October 25th, 2011 9:58 am

    So when this bag deflates, does it fill the cavity with breathable air? Or does it fill it with co2 “POISON”? What are your guys thoughts on the new BCA bags?

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