Avalanche airbags explode into spotlight


Backcountry Access Float 30 avalanche airbag

The number of avalanche airbags available to backcountry skiers and riders has exploded in North America in the past few years. And you've likely noticed that the safety devices are also getting more media attention this winter, not just in the outdoor world.

Avalanche airbags have been credited with saving several lives in recent avalanches. In the January 25th video above, pro snowboarder Meesh Hytner is caught in an avalanche in Colorado, but stays on top after deploying her BCA Float 30 avalanche airbag.

Most recently, pro skier Elise Saugstad credited her ABS airbag for helping her survive an avalanche near Washington's Stevens Pass, in which three others died (watch Today Show clip).

So far this 2011-12 season, the American Avalanche Association has recorded 18 avalanche deaths. The attention on the fatalities and the gear involved has touched off discussions about the importance of avalanche awareness and safety and the role of backcountry gear.

Here are some media clips on the issue:

  • Avalanches on the Rise for Thrill-Seeking Skiers (The New York Times 2/20/12):
    “It’s mostly the hard-core riders, people who know better,” Bruce Tremper, the director of the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center, said recently of the trend of experts testing their skills against the backcountry, no matter the conditions.

  • Survivor: Deadly Avalanche A 'Horror Story' (The Associated Press, 2/20/12):
    Powder Magazine senior editor John Stifter, who witnessed the slide that killed three of his skiing companions Sunday, said one person survived by bear-hugging a tree and holding on as the snow barreled over him. Another skier who was caught in the slide was saved when she deployed an air bag designed to keep her afloat.

  • Avalanche Kills Sidecountry Snowboarder in Bear Creek (The Watch, 2/15/12)
    Rescuers say that Nate Soules was riding alone east of the Telluride ski resort when the avalanche occurred. He was fully equipped with an avalanche beacon, an Avalung, and an ABS Air Bag System, which had been deployed (although it had been “shredded,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said).

  • Science Behind Avalanche 'Air Bag' Saves Skier (All Things Considered, NPR, 2/20/12)
    Audie Cornish speaks with Doug Abromeit, former director of and now consultant for the US Forest Service National Avalanche Center, about how the air bag works.

 

Airbags and other safety devices offer no guarantees in the backcountry, especially without proper instruction and awareness. But backcountry skiers and riders can expect even more options available next winter.

The North Face, Dakine, and Ortovox will join ABS, Backcountry Access, and Mammut (which owns Snowpulse and recently recalled its older airbag cartridges) in offering more backcountry packs and vests equipped with avalanche airbags.


Filed under: Gear News

Comments

Erich
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February 22, 2012 at 11:28 a.m. (EST)

Thanks for posting this, Alicia. Over the years, I worked on several avalanche shows/stories, including Avalanche: The White Death for Nat Geo. Foremost among experts, was that most avalanche deaths are preventable by not venturing into dangerous areas. While safety devices help, they often breed a false sense of security, as the AP story mentions. Avalanche education through classes and field work are important for anyone venturing off piste in the winter.

Bill S
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February 22, 2012 at 1:43 p.m. (EST)

I posted a similar story that ran on CNN from Colorado Feb 7 (2 weeks ago) in the Backcountry forum. I think it was the same model BCA. The recent incident from Stevens Pass (Washington state) involved a professional skier from here in the SFBay Area (Elise Saugstad, mentioned above in Alicia's article).

The best safety device is still prevention and avoidance of avalanche terrain. As the comments from the various avalanche centers say, too many people are depending on the rescue and recovery devices (get real - they aren't really "safety" devices). Yet among skiers and snowboarders, the majority are "experienced" backcountry travellers, according to the statistics published (the statistics are different for the increasing number of snowmobile riders - most are not so experienced in the backcountry).

iClimb
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February 22, 2012 at 5:33 p.m. (EST)

Bill I think you make a crucial point about experience level. Many times the skiers or climbers are indeed experienced, have taken avalanche courses, etc, and I think that it clouds their judgement.

Because they know a great deal or have experienced a great deal regarding avalanches and their terrain, they become complacent about whether it can happen to them.

"If I'm using my best judgement, based on my training and experience, I should be able to tell if I'm in danger of avalanches"

That is the complacent attitude that frequently causes these accidents. It's best to avoid dangerous terrain when risk is high. The mountain and it's route will be present long after we're dead. Wait to do it another time when danger is lower. Avalanches are unpredictable and there is always SOME risk involved. But thinking you can manage the risk when warnings are considerable or high is simply arrogant and asking for trouble.

There's always risk with our mountain activities. A lower level of that risk is more acceptable than the higher risk.

GaryPalmer
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February 22, 2012 at 5:52 p.m. (EST)

 

How do they employ? Dose the wearer pull a cord when in threat of an avalanche or is it motion detection?

Alicia
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February 22, 2012 at 6:35 p.m. (EST)

GaryPalmer said:

 How do they employ? Dose the wearer pull a cord when in threat of an avalanche or is it motion detection?

The user pulls a rip-cord, which discharges a compressed gas cylinder to inflate one or two bags on the pack or vest.

If you want, you can watch two kind of goofy videos of me deploying a Snowpulse and a BCA airbag in the safety of Outdoor Retailer a few years ago.

FYI, the Snowpulse was low on air as it was the last morning of the four-day tradeshow. Ordinarily it would be much faster and fuller.

Here's the Backcountry Access Float 30:

Rick-Pittsburgh
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February 22, 2012 at 6:50 p.m. (EST)

I was a bit "skeptical" when these first came out. I have to say though that I am now in full support of these if one is in avalanche areas.

If they save one life they are worth it as far as I am concerned. 

Jake W
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February 22, 2012 at 6:55 p.m. (EST)

I was recently in New Hampshire taking an Ice Climbing course with IME (incredible experience, definetly look them up) and did a hike on Mount Washington to Tuckermans ravine. It was made very clear at the base of the mountain that the avalache risk was at 'considerable' which is one below 'high'. Still, there were tons of people skiing and snowboarding in and around the ravine.

I was talking to our guide for the climbing course about it the next day and he had an interesting take on it. His analogy was that if there was a sign outside a sketchy bar, establishment, etc that said WARNING: You have a considerable chance of being shot if you go in, most people would pick up their stuff and move on to the next place. Unfortunatly people rarely take these warning, or avalanche dangers, seriously. Just thought it was a different, yet in some ways parallel, way of looking at it.

FromSagetoSnow
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February 22, 2012 at 9:00 p.m. (EST)

It seems like these things have a phenominal save rate.  Combined with an avalung I think they will become SOP for backcountry travelers just like transceivers and probes.

Dare I predict that these may, perish the thought, eclipse the importance of the mighty transceiver?  I think they are all complimentarry gear personally but I forsee a time where airbags and avalungs are more connon than transceivers. 

I think I just need to buy a few and rent them out.  I bet there's money in it.  That way no one would have to get killed for lack of $$ to buy one of these gems. 

Of course, staying home DRASTICALLY reduces your risk of avalanche burrial, and avy class should also be compulsury.

I was skiing at Badger Mtn the day the folks died at Stevens, the whole Cascades in WA had just fotten 6-12 inches of heavy spring snow. 

whomeworry
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February 22, 2012 at 9:07 p.m. (EST)

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

I was a bit "skeptical" when these first came out. I have to say though that I am now in full support of these if one is in avalanche areas.

If they save one life they are worth it as far as I am concerned. 

Of couse one could just avoid avalanche areas altogether; no one is forcing us to go there. 

Your heart is in the right place, Rick, but that same logic could justify taking along a gun (for bears) air casts (for bone fractures) spare boots (a delaminated soul is a bitch), a defibrillator, a trauma center in a sack (hey I’ll buy that!) and all manner of paraphernalia, just in case.  I have a hard enough time schlepping the gear that keeps me out of trouble, like insulating layers, shelter, snow pack analysis kit and shovel, and such kit; If I expanded my equipment list to include items for kidney failure, floods, forest fires, and God forbid, avalanches, the weight and bulk would be overwhelming, making Tipi’s pack look like a dinky lunch sack.  There is only so much you can carry.

I also question the effectiveness of some of these “safety devices.”  I remember as a Boy Scout packing a snake bite kit.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  We realize today the error in our logic.  It is my opinion a lot of crap get foisted upon us as something we can’t do without.  Vast tracks of backcountry in the western US have naturally potable water; yet we are compelled by scare stories and Madison Avenue to spend significant sums of money on filters and chemicals.  I do take along an avalanche beacon, but question its utility as a life saver.  A significant number of ill fated trekkers are dead before the slide comes to a halt.  A significant number that survive the ride are buried deep and perish before they are dug up, even when the search is expedited using beacons.  Beacons are good for those buried near the surface of the debris field, but you still need to get there fast.  Consider an avalanche can travel thousands of feet.  Just getting down to the debris field can take thirty minutes or more.  By that time half those who survive the initial slide will perish by asphyxiation.  Unfortunately the odds of successful rescue are small in the back country.  It would probably more honest to classify rescue beacons as body recovery devices.  Thus I carry an avalanche beacon so next of kin can have a body to reclaim and whatever sense of closure that provides…

Man versus avalanche is a one sided proposition, similar to motorcyclist versus car.  All the safety devices at their avail skew the odds only slightly less against them.  Air bags to address head on motorcycle collision are probably more useful than snow floatation bags, yet no one seems concerned.  Perhaps it has something to do with pragmatism as much as the culture of these past times.  I am a firm believer in preventing trouble.  Drive defensively, hang your food, thoroughly cook hamburger, study the snow pack and choose routes that keep you above and off unstable slopes.  Some folks won’t go snow camping with me because I am unwilling to take routes through suspect terrain, at suspect times, under suspect circumstances.  These folks don’t choose these routes because they think they know better as experts; they choose them because they knowingly play the odds in exchange for a more direct, easier, route, or for a thrilling run down a powder bowl that has danger written all over it.

Ed

BigRed
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February 23, 2012 at 9:54 a.m. (EST)

As Ed notes, for skiers/boarders the best snow is often on the most avalanche prone slopes. Deep powder at angles below 30 degrees is somewhere between slow and boring for any reasonably advanced skier, and 30 deg is where the risk kicks in. So there is a "good" reason for wanting to push the risk -- the rewards, however fleeting, are pretty big.

FromSagetoSnow
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February 23, 2012 at 11:50 a.m. (EST)

 

Ed, so basically you choose not to go to avy risk areas and thats a pretty safe proposition.  I don't go anywhere where avy risk is an issue b/c its too high a risk for me.  Thats prettty much a guaranteed method.  For those who do though, there is gear to help. Thats all these companies are saying.

I am still of the mind that if you want to carry an airbag, an avalung, extra boots, a can of bear spray and a SERE instructor go for it.  I will never fault someone for what they carry, even if its something I would not persoanally wish to carry. 

Really though airbags and avalungs can help prevent a rather significant category of avalanche deaths; asphyxiation and burrial. 

 

Jeff

Erich
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February 23, 2012 at 12:48 p.m. (EST)

Bill said "The best safety device is still prevention and avoidance of avalanche terrain. As the comments from the various avalanche centers say, too many people are depending on the rescue and recovery devices (get real - they aren't really "safety" devices)."

I completely agree. No amount of safety gear can offset solid knowledge of the conditions.

For the Nat Geo show, we interviewed a guy and his friends who had been snowmobiling, high lining or high pointing, when an avalanche buried him. They got him out by luck and he survived. When we spoke to them, they had all started to carry beacons since the accident. However seemed to realize that there high lining had anything to do with creating the avalanche in the first place. (They had cut a slab loose.)

Tom D
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February 23, 2012 at 8:58 p.m. (EST)

The snowboarder who was killed in Colorado recently had a BD Avalung, beacon and airbag, none of which saved him because he went over a cliff in an avalanche and was killed by blunt force trauma. The link to the story is in Alicia's article.

Never been in one, but from some of the footage I've seen, in a big one, I have no idea how anyone survives. I've been pounded by moderate sized surf-maybe 6' or so and that can kill you under the right circumstances.

Rick-Pittsburgh
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February 23, 2012 at 9:36 p.m. (EST)

whomeworry said:

Your heart is in the right place, Rick, but that same logic could justify taking along a gun (for bears) air casts (for bone fractures) spare boots (a delaminated soul is a bitch), a defibrillator, a trauma center in a sack (hey I’ll buy that!) and all manner of paraphernalia, just in case. 

Ed

Valid point but...

I was just speaking in reference to the topic of discussion(I'm not touching the gun subject with a 10ft pole.)

Then again I look at like this since we are on the subject. 

If above items that ya mentioned are what someone needs in order to feel comfortable in the bc so be it. The mental aspect of being out there is an important factor as well. 

Who am I to tell them otherwise?

At the same time if one of these items saved your life you would be much happier that ya had it when compared to the possible alternative scenario.

Personally I could care less if someone trudges around on the trail with a mini-fridge on their back supported with binding twine. 

Would I do it? Nope, would I recommend it? Nope. 

But if it works for the individual using this set-up so be it. 

To each is own ya know?

As I said on another thread just because one purchases the best of the best gear wise it doesn't mean they can get off the couch and tackle K2 on their first trip. 

Common sense and experience goes a long way. 

The avalanche airbag, etc is a tool to give one a better chance. Not a guarantee that one will live to trek another day...

I think its safe to assume that Meesh Hytner would tell ya that she was glad that she had hers. 

...and you're right.

Noone is forcing us to go out there but for those of us that do taking a few precautionary measures for the unexpected is not necessarily a bad thing. 





apeman
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February 24, 2012 at 3:19 a.m. (EST)

"Over the past 30 years (1978–2007), avalanches have been responsible for 329 deaths in Canada, with a recent rate of 14 deaths per year."(1)

 

"In the 2002–2003 season there were 54 recorded incidents in North America involving 151 people (73 were snowmobilers), 82 of whom were completely buried, 58 killed and 14 injured. Not a big number when compared to the total numbers of people participating in winter sports, but for those caught and completely buried the picture is bleak. This record high figure resulted mainly from an unusually high 25 fatalities that season in British Columbia. Thankfully, fewer deaths resulted in the two seasons 2003-04 and 2004-05 with around 60 people caught each year and 34 and 37 fatalities respectively."(2)

"Worldwide, between 100 and 200 people die each year from avalanches."(4) 

Most times when people venture into the backcountry nothing happens, again and again, except they gain in confidence and look forward to the next time. And since snow is stable about 95 percent of the time you get the 95 percent-success rate even if you know zero about avalanches. And in most cases, the average person has no idea they’ve even had a close call. (2)

In 2009 US 33,808 died in motor vehicle deaths in U.S.  In 2010 32,708. In a two year period that's 66,518 deaths.(3)

In the same two year period 68-74 deaths per year from were a result of avalanches.

One of my friends and his buddy were up in the Cascades this weekend boarding and started a slab avalanche.  They were by a grouping of trees and grabed onto the trees and all was well.  As risky as it may appear I'd rather take my chances with the possibility of an avalanche than actull staying safe driving up to the slopes to ski, board, shoe, camp, climb, etc.  From what I've seen these new products they can save lives but will not always save one's life.  Bottom line is if you don't want to get caught in a avalanche on should stay at home and not venture to snowy hills.  Untill and unless these airbags get cheaper I do not see many poor cash straped boarders and skiers dropping $500+ on one of these bags.IMHO

 

(1)http://www.ultimate-ski.com/Off-Piste/Avalanches_and_Mountain_Safety/Avalanche_fatalities/index.html

 

(2)http://www.ultimate-ski.com/Off-Piste/Avalanches_and_Mountain_Safety/Avalanche_fatalities/index.html

 

(3)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year

 

(4)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hood_climbing_accidents

 

 

 

whomeworry
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February 24, 2012 at 3:50 a.m. (EST)

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

..I am not quite sure where ya get from what I posted as being a reference to topics such as guns, air casts, spare boots, and the such or the logic that supports taking these items...

 How did I get from taking a floatation bag skiing to guns, defibrillators, etc?  Popular belief is these devices all ad to one’s security against the what ifs.  They are also all devices of dubious utility regarding safety in the backcountry.  If one used a similar risk assessment calculus that justifies a floatation bag, then the amount of other gear required to address risks of similar magnitude would fill several duffels with gadgets and kit and caboodle.  It would be impossible to bring it all.  More people get struck by lightning than are swept by avalanches, yet no one suggests we all bring along portable lightning rods on our adventures.  Why?  One reason is there are better ways to manage the risk of lightning strike, such as avoiding locations that attract bolts.  Same goes for avalanches.  Avoiding dangerous situations requires no additional equipment.  Furthermore less equipment affords quicker travel.  Mind the mountaineer’s axiom: Speed is safety.  Less equipment = faster travel.  Faster travel = less time spent on or below dangerous avalanche terrain.  Thus if one revisits the risk management of avalanche, most experienced snow trekkers would advise better route selection and speed is more effective than overburdening one’s self with avalung, floatation bag, drag cord, sea anchor, etc.

..If above items that ya mentioned are what someone needs in order to feel comfortable in the bc so be it. The mental aspect of being out there is an important factor as well...

I asked why people think floatation bags are a good idea.  As the part of your post (above) points out, they do so because it makes them “feel” safe.  A lucky rabbits’s foot makes some feel safe too.  The different between a floatation bag and rabbit’s foot is the effect they have on the owner’s behavior.  I don’t think anyone (in their right mind) would decide to enter or avoid terrain based on whether or not they were carrying a lucky charm.  But carrying a floatation bag provides a false sense of security to venture into areas one otherwise would avoid, had they realized how little these gadgets affect their margin of safety.  It is about as rational as kayaking off into the Gulf of Alaska believing an EPIRB and survival suit will improve one’s odds of surviving nature’s wrath in that environment.  Ludicrous!  As someone who has done his share of wilderness snow sports in big mountains, I have no problem telling someone if they are in terrain where such gear makes sense, then they have no business being there in the first place.  Thus I’d advice using the money otherwise wasted on flotation bags and avalungs on something to help make wiser decisions, such as a snow safety seminar.

..I think its safe to assume that Meesh Hytner would tell ya that she was glad that she had hers. 

Since Meesh Hytner is a professional snow boarder (nice gig ehh?), her experience is extraneous to the conversation.  As the old saying goes: these are experts – don’t try this at home!  Unless you do Warren Miller ski film stunts for a living, you have no business in the wilderness bombing down terrain similar to that which swept Meesh.  Save your hot dogging for patrolled slopes and late season corn snow.  I also question how big a role her flotation bag played in her ultimate safety, as the slide’s fracture zone is only about knee high and the slide debris look less than three feet deep.  Thank God she brought along her rabbit’s foot!  But if you must use Meesh to prove a point, do note she choose a line through that terrain MOST likely to trigger a slide.  Traveling down ridgelines is safest.  If you must travel a slope face, a route closely skirting exposed rocks is safer than the middle of a snow pillow; and post holing is safer than skiing. 

whomeworry
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February 24, 2012 at 6:02 a.m. (EST)

A review of this floatation bag leads me to believe it is not intended for wilderness trekking at all.  The device is integrated into the pack shown, with a combined weight of eight pounds.  Furthermore the device occupies more than half the pack’s volume; the remaining space is far short of that required to accommodate the stuff a well prepared day skier would normally take into the back country.  The truly obstinate may try to lash this system onto their normal pack- good luck!

I conclude this device is intended for the snow cat and heli skiing crowd.  And at $600 who else can afford it?! 

Ed

apeman
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February 24, 2012 at 2:59 p.m. (EST)

and still more avalanche news:

Dutch prince Johan Friso in coma after avalanche.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17153623

Alicia
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February 24, 2012 at 8:52 p.m. (EST)

Outside Magazine published the following today:

Blowing Up

An avalanche in Washington State killed three skiers but spared a fourth who was wearing an avalanche air bag. For years, experts have warned skiers never to travel in the backcountry without beacons, rescue shovels, and probes. Is it time to add one more piece of gear to the list?
Gist_ABSAirbag_02242012.jpg

f_klock
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February 25, 2012 at 9:44 a.m. (EST)

...of 262 skiers who were caught in slides with properly deployed bags, only seven, or 3 percent, were killed. By contrast, avalanche victims who are buried with no gear survive less than 30 percent of the time, and victims buried with only a beacon survive less than 50 percent of the time.

Wow, 97% success rate. I'd carry those odds to 'Vegas - in an air bag!

ocalacomputerguy
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February 25, 2012 at 2:38 p.m. (EST)

Ed said:

I conclude this device is intended for the snow cat and heli skiing crowd.  And at $600 who else can afford it?!

I think you hit the nail on the head Ed.   These things are for thrill seekers and/or S&R people.  These people intentionally go into avalanche prone areas, anything that gives them a better chance of survival is good equipment to carry.  It would be wiser to avoid the area but danger is sometimes part of what makes it thrilling and S&R often requires you to go get the idiots from the dangerous and thrilling places. 

If you knew that your likelihood of being in an avalanche was high and you could not avoid it, I'm willing to bet you would be wearing an avalung, airbag, and beacon.  If you weren't with a group who could come dig you out then you would probably ditch the avalung because all it would do is keep alive a little longer.

You would also be very careful in picking your route.  If you had a choice between a slightly higher avalanche risk but on a debris free slope and one that had a lot of debris or would possibly send you off a cliff you (I assume) would pick the debris free slope and cross your fingers that the airbag would keep you at the surface.

Basically I think it boils down to this. If you are heli skier in the first place, adding an avalung, airbag and beacon to your equipment is a wise idea.  If were teetering on the edge of heli skiing and this makes you comfortable doing it, think about it long and hard before booking that trip. If you have just seen some news reports about how airbags save skier's lives and that it looks way cool to go heli skiing and that there is now very little risk (dude I've skied down the expert slope and made it). Go right ahead and do it!! Darwin will take care you.  

The above applies to all gear.  I like to water ski.  I'm not going to ski without a ski vest on. I could still drown if I fell and got knocked out (hit a log or something) because a ski vest is not going to keep your face out of the water.  I could wear a type 1 offshore life vest but they are cumbersome, would reduce the enjoyment of skiing significantly and are just plain overkill.  If I got some wild idea to ski off shore or on a log filled river then wearing a type 1 would make sense. 

Saw a show about people studying Brown bears on Bear Island in Alaska.  One of the jobs was to put collars on the bears.  They would set traps, then tranq the bears and collar them.  This obviously brought them into much closer contact with bears than any sane person would want. They took much more drastic safety measures.  Two people always went period.  One with the tranq gun, one with a gun that would take down a charging bear.  They had a scene where they got charged by a bear and had to shoot it.  

The idea I'm trying to communicate is that if the situation to need a piece of safety gear is likely or unavoidable then take the equipment. If it is unlikely or avoidable using common sense and don't take it.

Remember each of us have our own personal fears.  If a person were scared of getting in an avalanche even though they know all the precautions to take, but still wouldn't go snow camping for fear of being killed (maybe they were caught in one before), an airbag might be a good thing if it allowed them to overcome their fears and enjoy themselves as long as they didn't become lax with other safety procedures.

Everyone has their own levels of risk that they are willing to take. This level usually goes down with age and wisdom. I say let people take the risks as long as they don't drag other people unwillingly with them. Also try to give the Darwin fodder some sort of forced education (after at least three sober and clean days) that may make them think about what they are wanting to do.

ocalacomputerguy
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February 25, 2012 at 3:32 p.m. (EST)

BTW What is a snow cat? If this is a tracked vehicle similar to a bull dozer this sounds inherently dangerous to the foolish end of the scale. What happens if it triggers an avalanche and is caught in it? The only other thing I can think of is a catapult which sounds extremely fun in cartoon land but stupid enough that even this thrill seeker might not do it.

For those of you who would like the thrill of skiing without the dangers of avalanches try this

Bill S
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February 25, 2012 at 11:40 p.m. (EST)

ocalacomputerguy said:

BTW What is a snow cat?

Cat skiing is using a snow cat to access areas without lifts.

Modes of access - lifts - rope tow, T-bar, J-bar, gondola, teleferique, chairs (single, double, triple, quad, some fixed to the cable, some "detachable", and one I rode in Switzerland, double, seats oriented sideways, and detachable passing through a half dozen stations from one cable to the next)

snow cats - often pulling a trailer sled with up to a couple dozen seats. Takes you to the top of the hills then heads back down to pick you up again. Usually has lots of hot drinks and other refreshments.

Heli skiing - helicopter does same thing as snow cat, except usually accesses much steeper terrain with much longer vertical

"Earn your turns" - you access the slopes under your own muscle power on tele or randonee skis, usually with removeable skins,or snowshoes (that's for snowboarders, who are actually surfers most of the year, then surf the snow in winter, because they don't know how to ski and don't have any couth or control - split-boarders are a transition group who are beginning to see the light - some actually become enlightened enough to learn how to ski, with a miniscule number who learn to "Free the heel and free the soul" - that's the true faith of tele - hey, if tele were easy, it would be called "snowboarding"). Boarders who earn their turns are on their way to learning the One True Faith.

Tom D
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February 26, 2012 at 2:03 a.m. (EST)

Oh goodie! A war on snowboarders.

btw, here is a bunch of stuff about snow cats, plus pictures-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowcat

whomeworry
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February 26, 2012 at 4:58 a.m. (EST)

Bill S said:

...the One True Faith.

Bill:

Much as I have always been a ardent disciple of the great Free Heel for over forty years, I do believe I detect a tinge of bias in your assessment and descriptions of those practicing "non-orthodox" faiths:)  Or perhaps I am just a pin head who can't tell irony from tar base?

Ed

whomeworry
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February 26, 2012 at 5:06 a.m. (EST)

f_klock said:

...of 262 skiers who were caught in slides with properly deployed bags, only seven, or 3 percent, were killed. By contrast, avalanche victims who are buried with no gear survive less than 30 percent of the time, and victims buried with only a beacon survive less than 50 percent of the time.

Wow, 97% success rate. I'd carry those odds to 'Vegas - in an air bag!

Note most people caught in avalanches come way unharmed.  The statistic cited makes no attempt to compare this outcome with folks in similar slides but not equipped with flotation bags.

Ed

Bill S
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February 26, 2012 at 1:17 p.m. (EST)

whomeworry said:

Bill S said:

...the One True Faith.

Bill:

Much as I have always been a ardent disciple of the great Free Heel for over forty years, I do believe I detect a tinge of bias in your assessment and descriptions of those practicing "non-orthodox" faiths:)  Or perhaps I am just a pin head who can't tell irony from tar base?

Ed

 Who, me, biased? Naah! I may be bigotted, but never biased.

Forgive me for my sin of neglecting the pine tar, which True Pinheads use for climbing instead of skins. But I am a skilled user of Klister.

Bill S
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February 26, 2012 at 1:24 p.m. (EST)

One bit of advice that is impossible for snowboarders to follow - when traversing potential avy slopes, loosen your bindings and if caught, discard your skis. Boarders are solidly locked into both feet. The reason is that having boards locked to your legs frequently results in leg injuries and may contribute to dragging you under in the avalanche flow. Release bindings on skis (downhill and randonee, along with some tele bindings) and the lever on cable tele and 3-pin tend to release in avalanche, where board bindings don't.

Erich
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February 27, 2012 at 12:26 p.m. (EST)

As some of you may know, I'm a bit of a classicist in many things. I am also an advocate of "Earn your turns". I have seen snow boarders have an epiphany and go the way of the "old guy" and try, and like, two boards. In white water canoeing, though we are very accepting, in a fatherly sort of way, of kayakers, the phrase, "Half the paddle, twice the paddler" comes to mind. Last week I taught a class in which two of the boaters had been confirmed kayakers until they saw the light.

Rick-Pittsburgh
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February 27, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. (EST)

I was an avid snow boarder for quite a few years(leg eliminated that from my hobbies)...

Free ride, park, pipe...

I did just about anything. I could never quite understand why the skiers dislike snowboarders and vice versa. 

Oh well, what can ya do? 

I always said its not the ride its the person taking the ride. I have met quite a few "BEEEEEPS" who were skiers. Same goes for boarders. 

And not all snow boarders are "surfers" in the warmer seasons lol. 

whomeworry
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February 27, 2012 at 7:31 p.m. (EST)

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

I always said its not the ride its the person taking the ride.

I agree.
I have been smacked hard three times on the slopes; all the culprits were skiers.  But as Rick suggests, the stuff attached to the feet probably have nothing to do with the incident, rather the maturity of the rider is to blame.  To that end each of these incidents involved a young male, flouting all manner of safety decorum; skiing too fast into the back of lift lines, executing un-scouted, blind landing jumps, and failing to safely overtake down slope skiers.  Youth did not lose its collective common sense with the advent of snowboards, I remember there being plenty of young fools on skis in my youth, before snowboards were skidoos.  It would be tempting to blame Warren Miller for such nonsense, after all many a would be rebel skier and boarder got their initial inspiration from Miller's films featuring banzi ski kamikazes careening of the cliffs of Kirkwood, and bad boy boarders grinding against all manner of terrain and infrastructure.  But in the end it is about individual consideration, or lack thereof, and a willingness to subject one’s self and others to hazards all in the name of getting a cheap thrill.

Ed

whomeworry
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February 27, 2012 at 7:39 p.m. (EST)

Erich said:

..I am also an advocate of "Earn your turns"...

Earn you turns has its place, but I find honing skills on lift serviced slopes shortens the down hill skills learning curve significantly, and helps keep those skills sharp.  This in turn translates to a safer and more enjoyable time in the backcountry.
Ed

300winmag
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June 13, 2012 at 2:41 p.m. (EDT)

As an Avalanche I certified Ski Patroller I agree 100% with Erich's comment that avy training is the MOST important thing you can have for avy "equipment".

I have all my avy gear including an AvaLung breathing device and a good beacon but I lack an avy airbag. They are 'spensive so I'll just rent them when I'm in Colorado's backcountry.

Still, a few airbag users have been killed WITH their bag deployed when they were sent through trees in an avalanche. Nothing is foolproof.

Statistics show that winter backcountry travellers are actually safer when women are in the group. Seems they temper macho male urges to go beyond safe limits. So take yer woman backcountry in winter!

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