Airbag Backpacks- what the experts say

Saturday, 24 November 2012  |  Evan

Airbag backpacks are fast becoming standard off-piste equipment for a good reason; the statistics show that they work. Here's a list of quotes and links to what ski industry experts and pro-skiers are saying about their use and effectiveness.  We've also included links to stories where skiers describe using their airbag rucksack in real life avalanche situations.  Some of the stories are very moving, all are educational.

".... it's fair to say that avalanche airbags are the best technology to come along in the history of people's interactions with avalanches.  In fact, they arguably work better than avalanche forecasts, education, or research, which is a humbling admission for someone like me who has spent a lifetime providing exactly that."

Bruce Tremper, Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, 2nd edition.

"...concerning airbag pack technology – do not wait for a tragedy or close-call to purchase one. This was the first year I’ve skied with one of these packs (BCA Float 36). Before this, I was aware of the technology and overwhelming statistics, but held off due to financial concerns. This seems to be the most common excuse from most riders I meet. It is true that the price tag can be heavy, especially in years past. But with BCA coming into the market recently, we’ve entered a new era."

Nick Barlow, guide with Alaska Heliskiing, in a blog reflecting on a season that saw the first ever heliskiing avalanche fatalities in Alaska:

"I would not enter the side or backcountry without an ABS airbag, along with my transceiver, shovel and probe. It saved my life."

"It must be noted though that an ABS backpack is for when everything goes wrong, rather than being an enabler to ditch common sense and forego avalanche safety. Also, when entering side-country there can be a false sense of security, one must not become complacent just because you’re next to a resort."

Pro skier Elyse Saugstad, from interview for National Geographic.  Elyse attributes her survival of the Stephens Pass avalanche, which killed three highly experienced companions, to her airbag backpack.  Read the moving account of the Stephens Pass avalanche, written by Megan Michelson (Freeskiing editor of ESPN) for Outside Magazine here.

"For sure, it’s very effective. I’ve never had to use it. I’d say if I could pick one piece of avalanche safety equipment to take with me into the mountains, I would say, hands down, it would be an airbag."

Pro-snowboarder Jeremy Jones, when asked in an interview with National Geographic whether he uses an avalanche airbag rucksack.