Avalanche Airbags the way forward?

- March 6, 2013

ABSOver the last few years avalanche airbags or “avalanche rescue backpacks” have become much more popular. Basically they are a compressed gas systems connected to an airbag or bags, built into a backpack, which you can activate if caught in an avalanche while skiing, snowboarding or climbing.

They work on the strange principal of inverse segregation, in other words “the big bits come to the surface of an avalanche” when in movement. So the hope is that you will stay on the surface of the avalanche rather than being buried which makes it easier for the rescue team or even enables you to rescue yourself.

I am lucky enough to have never needed to deploy my ABS whilst out on the mountain but plenty of people I know have. Riding with transceivers is always a must when heading to the backcountry, but I have often found myself with people who don’t have one on. This can often leave you worrying about the other person and mean that you end up not pushing yourself as far as you’d like. I must say that the peace of mind you feel when heading off-piste with all of buddies wearing transceivers and Airbag packs can take the stress out of a group ski holiday.

Statistics state that up to 97% of people caught in an avalanche and who successfully activated their airbag survived. (Source ABS GmbH)

ABS Airbags Deployed

The first brand to come to market was ABS some 25 years ago, and they have now developed into one of the major players in the market, for many years they were the only airbag system available. Other suppliers to the backcountry market have launched their own version, namely Snowpulse, now owned by Mammut and BCA (Back Country Access) now owned by K2. All the different systems have their merits and it is not the intention of this article to say which is the best, or exclude other systems being launched, however after many rescues and statistics it appears that they do all work.

The increasing popularity of airbags has given rise to quite a few other brands using the airbag systems technology from either ABS or Snowpulse within their own products companies such as Ortovox, Scott, North Face and Arva, and this is where the development of the market becomes very interesting, as mentioned Snowpulse and BCA are now owned by very major companies therefore the investment in new technology and development could see smaller companies such as ABS struggling to keep up in the future. In fact the range of airbags from ABS has been essentially the same for the last couple of years, whereas the other brands have made significant changes and developments to their products, so what is the future?

Mammut Transferable AirbagThis development to the market can be seen with, “removable airbags” these are complete airbag systems that can be fixed into other backpacks designed to take them, the leader in this has been Mammut with the Snowpulse RAS system, and this enables you to use the backpack as a normal backpack or an avalanche airbag backpack. In fact next season all Mammuts bags including its Snowpulse range will have removable/transferable airbags.

ABS have been slower to react to this, however next season sees the launch of the New Ortovox ABS bags, these use a ABS system which can be fixed into a specially designed Ortovox backpack and are removable as well, like the Snowpulse RAS system.

It would appear that the way forward will be with this removable type system, so where will this leave the dedicated airbag brands such as ABS, it could well be the case that as with many great ideas the original inventor or producer gets swallowed up by a major corporation as they may be unable to compete in fast developing competitive market.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or following us on Facebook!
Posted by Guest, under Tips, Tricks & Helpful Info.
Tags: ,
Comment (RSS)