This ski season saw a high number of avalanche fatalities, but also some miraculous survival stories thanks to avy-safety technology. There seems to be no question that airbags saved several lives this season. But, they also failed to save a few, proving that they’re not a guarantee in an avalanche.
The best approach to surviving an avalanche is to avoid being caught in one. But some experts are concerned that the bags and other recent gear improvements are fostering a false sense of security and therefore inspiring people to travel into dangerous zones they wouldn’t explore if they didn’t have the packs
The weight of the ABS TwinBag system with both airbags is 2.28 lbs (1,035 grams). The activation unit with handle and carbon cartridge (which isn’t yet available in North America) weighs 0.76 lbs (345 grams). The base unit with cover for shovel and probe weighs 2.47 lbs (1,120 grams). That’s a total of 5.51 lbs (2,500 grams).
An important airbag innovation is in the activation of the system. Too many avalanche victims activate their bags too late or not at all as they are already in the downfall and cannot reach the activation handle any longer. ABS recognized this hazard and developed the Wireless Activation system that has been successful in many live situations. The Wireless Activation system is of particular importance to snowmobilers who may be unable to activate the trigger by removing their hands from the throttles in an emergency.
About 80 percent of all avalanche victims die because they were buried under the avalanche. The prevention of the “anchoring effect” in the solidification phase of the avalanche can also be further optimized. We are already working hard to further develop the technology to reduce the risk of anchoring. ABS avalanche airbags claim a 97 percent survival rate.