Forums Splitboard Talk Forum Airbags for Boarders – your opinion
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    22 Posts

    Recently a sledneck friend in CO was very likely saved by an ABS airbag. It seems like many who use these systems are incredible advocates of them.

    In mentioning this to a splitter friend on the skin track the other day, I was told that since our binders don’t release in either tour or ride mode (DUH) and would possibly act as anchors in a slide, the air packs aren’t as useful for boarders.

    Being wary of this assertion and not having yet posed the question to professionals and manufacturers, I submit it to you all. Anyone have any meaningful feedback on the question – do avvy airbags make sense for splitters?

    41 Posts

    YES! regardless of skiing or snowboarding, an airbag will in no doubt increase your survival chances since it will keep you above a slide. i have a very good friend that reps one of the leading brands of the airbag systems. the statistics are ridiculous when comparing non-use of airbags vs. airbags. if anything.. i would suggest it even more to snowboarders since a board will undoubtedly drag you down with no chance of being able to unclip. even my friend says.. regardless of what you’re riding on the bottom of your feet.. you will end ontop of the slide. the point of an airbag system is to create volume to keep you floating above the slide… the amount of volume you get from these airbags will trump the “burying effect” of a snowboard on the bottom of your feet.

    i plan on making the big investment next season to buy an airbag system. airbags are very much on their way to becoming part of the standard avalanche safety gear every back country traveler should have. Some might argue about the compromises of weight, or not having all the bells and whistles like fuzzy goggle pockets as featured in other packs. but the bottom line, this pack will save your life. posted a very in depth review of avalance air bag packs. A definite must read:

    42 Posts
    42 Posts

    I second that!. Absolutely essential after your minimal basic Avy gear and avy awareness education which should be on-going.

    The idea is the larger volumed objects float on top of the smaller volumed objects after being “tumble dried”. Think of shaking your Coco pops box, the large pops stay on top while the smaller granules end up at the bottom. And you want to stay on top of those death slabs. You may be more likely to self dig your self out if you are shallow buried with your arms free to get your gear (i wouldnt be betting on this though), or you may be more visible to your rescuer/buddy with your bright orange double inflated bags, arms or legs sticking out after a shallow burial, and your rescuer would definitely cut the time in digging in shallower burials and increase your chance of survival as the time ticks away.

    IMO, the ABS is a worthy investment to dish your dosh on, to POSSIBLY increase your chances of survival if you ever get caught in a slide.

    How fast the bag inflates and how it looks is posted in this vid link below.

    Myself testing the bag pre season start, which you should do yearly.–2-_5qyL0

    For your information, the ABS system has a Vario line, where you can choose your packs from 15 L to 50 L and switch easily on the base Vario backpack.

    My main problem is the weight of the things. You start off with an already heavy bag, plus your essentials for a 1 dayer or multidayer tour.

    As an example I weighed these out below.

    My previous set up was the 15L with steel canister.

    Vario Basepack 2.100
    Steel Cartridge 0.515
    15L bag 0.400
    ABS handle 0.065

    Total 3.080 kg

    Now I shaved even more weight with the Ultralight 18 L pack plus Carbon Fiber canister.

    Vario Basepack 2.100
    Carbon Cartridge 0.280
    18L bag 0.280
    ABS handle 0.065

    Total 2.725 kg

    Splitboarders argument may go in the lines that the splitboard was mainly created to ease the load off your back (that heavy damn sweet snowboard on your backpack). And now you’ve partly placed it back on with the ABS bag.

    I don’t mention all the other advantages of the splitboard versus snow shoe and heavy pack here.

    I would not leave home without it in a small party or with just 1 buddy with me in the back country.

    With a mountain guide and larger crew of skiers, I would this season ditch the ABS weight (my aim is to improve my strength to carry the ABS always) and I would have my Avalung on me, to catch up with them fast skiers.

    As of the anchor effect, very valid point indeed, I will look into making those DIY emergency rip cords i saw in this forum for my split bindings.

    Dynamite triggered ABS avy bag and Avy ball test with dummys. End results speak for themselves.
    Violent huh?

    I also copied and pasted a nice summary of the ABS below:

    My :twocents:

    The scientific findings have been in for a long time and clearly show that airbags save lives, while beacons locate corpses.

    Beacons (66.2%)
    Airbags (2.5%)
    Lower is better.

    A “beacon” offers very poor survivability (66.2% mortality) according to statistics, especially compared to the ABS “Flotation” Airbag (2.5% mortality). In most cases with a beacon, you can’t first find, then dig victims out of hard avalanche compressed snow, ice, and rocks fast enough to save their lives. Death is a high probability even with a beacon, and it comes quickly after 15-20min of complete burial unless a survivor has a Caterpillar backhoe, or your partner is a Yeti.

    Avalanche Airbag system almost everybody (97.5%) will survive.
    Accidents where avalanche airbags were used, showed of the 40 persons involved, 97.5%(39) survived, and 2.5%(1) died due to an unusually large primary, followed by a secondary avalanche.
    Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research

    Avagear airbag
    ABS airbag

    Even with an ABS airbag, an avalanche can cause severe trauma, snap your spine, or twist and break your neck like a chicken. Eight of 12 crash test dummies used in the Swiss tests, of the $100,000 variety, the kind used by Mercedes or Volvo, had their limbs detached at the knees. These knee joints are rated at an axial strength of 20 kN and require a massive mechanical load to snap them. Likewise, the torque or turning moment to twist and break your neck or back was registered on the instrumented dummies.

    Avalanche Transceiver
    -Without transceiver 8 out of 10 dead
    -With transceiver 8 out of 12 dead (66.2%)

    Avalanche Airbag
    -Mortality without airbag 1 out of 4 dead
    -Mortality with airbag 1 out of 40 dead (2.5%)

    Avalanche Transceivers have reached their Limit
    “With the use of the avalanche transceiver only 4 out of 12 backcountry travellers will survive, eight are dead

    The search to locate the buried person and the additional time to dig the victim out of the hard compressed avalanche snow is the limiting factor for the success of avalanche rescue transceivers. This emergency system has reached its limits; even with 8 out of 10 backcountry travellers wearing the transceiver, and in the best case scenario when 100% are using the device no significant change in the numbers can be expected.”

    Univ. Prof. Heinz Slupetzky, President of Section Salzburg of the Austrian Alpine Club

    Analysis of Avalanche Safety Equipment for Backcountry Skiers
    The most efficient means of preventing avalanche fatalities is to avoid complete burial. The ABS Avalanche Balloon System and the Avagear life vest provide floatation which keeps the victim on the surface while the avalanche is in motion.

    Avalanche Airbag
    -lowers the mortality rate from 23% to 2.5%

    Avalanche Transceiver
    -lowers the mortality rate from 75.9% to 66.2%

    [Brugger,Falk: Analysis of Avalanche Safety Equipment for Backcountry Skiers. Austrian Association for Alpine and High Altitude Medicine. Reviewed by Cdn Avalanche Assoc. (2002)]

    Another article here:

    And an abstract from the Resuscitation Journal about ABS and Trancievers below.

    The Impact of Avalanche Rescue Devices on Survival

    Within Europe and North America, the median annual mortality from snow avalanches between 1994 and 2003 was 141. There are two commonly used rescue devices: the avalanche transceiver, which is intended to speed up locating a completely buried person, and the avalanche airbag, which aims to prevent the person from being completely buried.

    This retrospective study aimed to evaluate whether these avalanche rescue devices had an effect on mortality.

    The study population was 1504 persons who were involved in 752 avalanches either in Switzerland from 1990 to 2000 and from 2002 to 2003 (1296 persons, 86.2%) or in Austria from 1998 to 2004 (208 persons, 13.8%).

    Persons equipped with an avalanche airbag had a lower chance of dying (2.9% versus 18.9%; P=0.026, OR 0.09, n=1504). In persons who were completely buried, without visible or audible signs at the surface and who did not rescue themselves (n=317), we found a lower median duration of burial (25min versus 125min; P<0.001) and mortality (55.2% versus 70.6%; P<0.001, OR 0.26) in those using an avalanche transceiver than in those not using the device.

    Our data showed that both the avalanche airbag and the avalanche transceiver reduce mortality. However, to improve the evaluation of rescue devices in the future, the data collection procedures should be reviewed and prospective trials should be considered, as the reliability of retrospective studies is limited.

    198 Posts

    im saving for a BCA float30, (the most economical option). i will be sad to give up my current bag which i love , and i like the ABS interchangeable bag deal, but reality says im not going to drop 1200 bux on a pack.

    the “board as anchor” theory interests me. in many of the first hand accounts ive read, the boarder stated that his deck had him turned upside down – i.e. board above the head. every situation is different, but i have noticed that is a recurring theme.

    124 Posts

    There was a slide near Val d’isere over the w/e. 2 british skiers. wife activated the airbag and survived uninjured, husband did not (not sure he had one or not) and is in critical conditions in hospital. Yet another example. These things defo do not cost 1200 bux to make, somebody’s taking the p*ss. Thank G for competition. But yeah good question on the anchor effect. Was wondering is the new karakorams would be easier to rig for quick release.

    709 Posts

    With all the chatter about the BCA, and ABS airbags… don’t forget to check out the “SnowPulse”. It’s the best design out there in my opinion which protects the head and neck from trauma. It’s also cheaper to refill seeing it uses a small scuba canister. Plus, with the new design… you can have multiple size packs!

    24 Posts

    How would this work for tree wells? You wouldn’t know until youv’e already fallen in…

    42 Posts

    @powdernewb: the bags are not made for that scenario.
    Avalung may be the best bet there. And your ride mates should have your back. Who else is gonna dig you out?

    624 Posts

    I don’t know how anyone could watch Xavier de la rue’s huge slide with so much snow above him into a long ravine and even think that an airbag is not the best tool for increasing your chances of survival on a board or otherwise. I don’t have one, but no good excuse really. Just google xavier and avalanche for the vid, it is a big one.

    1114 Posts

    Im with splitrippin. Ill be picking up a snowpulse when I go the airbag route. Id like to support BCA as a local company, but it looks like you could barely fit anything into this pack. I prefer the way the snowpulse airbag comes around to the front of the neck as well, better protection for treed slopes and likely slide zones in the rockies…..

    1165 Posts

    The snow pulse looks nice.

    The BCA Airbag coming out next year is supposed to be hugely improved. Float 45 I believe. I agree that this years design is just too small.

    Regardless, it’s pretty obvious these things work and greatly enhance your survival chances.

    124 Posts

    +1 on the snowpulse.

    Regarding the Val D’isere incident I mentionned, the guy died in hospital unf. RIP. Turns out he had an airbag but could not activate it (not sure if eqpmt failure or just got knocked unconscious before pulling the rip cord). Not sure which maker either.

    42 Posts

    Kudos to Snowpulse for the head protection, I also considered this route (it certainly does seem to be the best tool for forest backcountry) but I went the ABS in the end for being the most mature company in the market.

    They also have a new tech, where the ABS airbag can be wirelessly triggered by your touring partner (or whoever pulls the trigger first). Could have been helpful in the husband and wife situation (RIP).

    124 Posts

    That wireless trigger concept is interesting. Does it mean you’re trigerring everybody’s airbag nearby? That could be weird if somebody pushes the button by mistake and everybody in close proximity get their bag triggered.

    Re the Val d’isere avalanche the wife was also caught in the slide so not sure she could have triggered for her husband unless one person’s trigger automatically triggers all the others’. She ended-up lightly buried exactly on top of her husband but they could not get him out in time. sad.

    42 Posts

    @SerreChe wrote:

    That wireless trigger concept is interesting. Does it mean you’re trigerring everybody’s airbag nearby? That could be weird if somebody pushes the button by mistake and everybody in close proximity get their bag triggered.

    Re the Val d’isere avalanche the wife was also caught in the slide so not sure she could have triggered for her husband unless one person’s trigger automatically triggers all the others’. She ended-up lightly buried exactly on top of her husband but they could not get him out in time. sad.

    This story really makes me feel sick in the stomach, i really wish that it could have been another ending to that story =(.

    To answer your question regarding the wireless activation, i copied and pasted the exerpt form the company below: My girlfriend starts touring alone with me soon, I will advice her to get the same system so we can get the wireless activation system.

    ABS Wireless Activation.
    Safety multiplied.
    ABS Wireless Activation, the newest innovation by
    ABS, makes skiing in groups even safer. For example
    one person in the group is able to activate the airbags
    of the other group members.
    The new remote controlled activation also offers
    individual activation possibilities for ski groups:
    • equal activation alliance – everybody can activate
    everybody else’s airbag.
    • defined activators – appointed persons, the guide for
    example, can initiate the remote activation.
    • Single activation – only one particular person’s airbag
    can be activated (example: only one person is skiing
    on the slope)
    • you can always activate your own airbag.
    • Approx. 300 m wireless range
    • Range multiplication – each wireless handle is a
    relay station
    • Technology is integrated into the activation handle
    • No interference for transceiver or cell phone
    • Energy supply with standard lithium batteries
    • Refillable
    • All double airbag systems can be retrofitted with
    wireless activation

    709 Posts

    It’s good to see the tech these days in regards to airbags. Here’s a real example of goofy tech in new products. Reudi from SME got ABS for his guests to wear the year after the big Durrand slide. I unfortunately got the ABS trigger caught on my jacket putting the pack on. It was a super hair trigger.
    I had to ride down this super friggin sweet steep pitch w/ this friggin kevlar balloon on my back…. what a dumbass! 😯 :nononno:

    42 Posts

    you could have deflated and stored away before continuing down, but that takes some minutes and a relatively flatter slope 😉 . But you would have been without the benefit of the bag, if you were unfortunate enough to trigger off a slide off that slope but i could have imagined the wings whiles making turns!

    Anyway it is a double edged sword that hair trigger handle. Ready and responsive when you most need it.

    When i ride off piste in bounds and catch the chairlift, i always take the trigger handle completely off.

    124 Posts

    wow, this is really cool technology then, amazing how quickly things are progressing. Good to see some healthy competition.

    I know what you mean about the slide, always hurt to hear those stories. Really bad luck as the same slope had been ridden multiple times before on the same day but as we know…details are here:

    4th pic is “interesting” in its own right as it shows the sympathetic cross fracture that brutally ripped accross the lift line area. It looks a bit freakish.

    Wish I could have seen you riddin’ with the wings on. at least you know it inflates ok!

    709 Posts

    Rex, I wish deflating would have been an option. Ruedi had to radio back to the lodge to get directions on deflating. That line was the steepest any of us had ever skinned, but Ruedi is on a whole other level in that regards. Imagine skinning along side of a vertical wall, it was that steep. That airbag was so tight you could flick the bag, and hear “ping”, “ping”.

    The next 2 days were pretty sketch seeing we were on our way to a remote hut, and avy danger went through the roof.

    I was pucker’d 😕

    Keep in mind that was back in 05′, so I”m sure alot has changed.

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