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Thread: Airbags Save Lives!

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Airbags Save Lives!

    JIC you haven't heard about all the skiers killed in the avalanche yesterday...

    In one avalanche, 12 backcountry skiers from 3 groups were involved in the avalanche at some point. One group of 4 were carried over 1,500' down a chute where 3 of them died, but the 4th was wearing an airbag pack, deployed it and survived. In a separate avalanche in the same area of Washington state, a second avalanche killed a snowboarder the same day.

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/19...on-ski-resort/

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/19/us/was...html?hpt=hp_t3

    http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/20...ashing-machine

    At any rate, this event is a pretty good case for these new airbag packs. Just doing a little googling and it looks like the going price is running about $500 to $1000 depending on model. I also noticed that a number of online outlets show these packs as "not currently available" or "on backorder", etc. I don't know if that means production/distribution is slow or if the demand is just that high. Given the popularity of backcountry skiing, it wouldn't surprise me if the demand is just overwhelming the production resources as this new device is entering the market. I expect yesterday's incident will only fuel the sales even higher.

    I'm kinda curious about the proliferation of these packs into Alaska. So, who's using them or saving up their pocket change to get one? What makes/models do you have or are looking at buying?
    Winter is Coming...

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    They are not uncommon amongst the mountain snow machiners I know.

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    Member mmusashi2k's Avatar
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    I've been researching them for some time and will eventually have one. I would prefer to be able to see and inspect before purchasing rather than click online. I don't know who has them in inventory.
    If anything is going to happen, it'll happen out there.

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    Sometimes. A snowboarder riding sidecountry in Telluride, CO was killed in an avalanche last week despite the fact that he had an Avalung and an ABS (which was "shredded"):

    http://www.watchnewspapers.com/view/...ance=top_story

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sterlingsurfer View Post
    Sometimes. A snowboarder riding sidecountry in Telluride, CO was killed in an avalanche last week despite the fact that he had an Avalung and an ABS (which was "shredded"):

    http://www.watchnewspapers.com/view/...ance=top_story
    An airbag doesn't do you much good when a hundred thousand tons of snow slams you into a stand of timber at 60 miles an hour. However, on open slopes the airbags have a good record. No amount of gear replaces knowing how to assess the conditions and staying away when they are unstable.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Kinda ironic that this article http://www.adn.com/2012/02/19/232637...it-on-use.html was the headline the day before this incident.

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    Here's a link to an excellent report on the recent Telluride avalanche with pics of the shredded ABS and the chute in Bear Creek where the avalance occurred:

    http://avalanche.state.co.us/acc/acc...=442&accfm=inv

    The chute is so narrow with trees on both sides it's hard to understand how he thought an ABS would help. And, moreover, - since he was riding alone - how he thought a beacon and Avalung would help...

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Yeah, the beacon hype has always been puzzling to me. Whether it be a lone telemarker or a snowmachiner, it's almost laughable that they are carrying a beacon on solo outings. Or you have the small group and only one guy has a beacon. I guess you can look at it from the body recovery standpoint... we might not have to wait until breakup to hold the funeral.

    I guess I equate these avalanche airbags to vehicle airbags. It's a life saving device, not a body recovery device. Just like the airbag in a car will only protect you in certain situtations, the avalanche airbag will only keep you afloat in certain situations. Flying off a cliff and breaking your head open on a tree is far beyond what any airbag could protect you from.
    Winter is Coming...

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Bottom line:
    Quote Originally Posted by Erik in AK View Post
    No amount of gear replaces knowing how to assess the conditions and staying away when they are unstable.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    Bottom line:
    Quote Originally Posted by Erik in AK View Post
    No amount of gear replaces knowing how to assess the conditions and staying away when they are unstable.
    I disagree. We can all sit at home hiding in bomb shelters for fear of ever getting hurt. Or, we can get out there and play; live life doing what excites and motivates you. Walking out the front door requires assumption of a certain level of risk. Some have a much higher risk threshold and might go on backcountry solo snowboarding trips in Colorado. Every once in awhile, one of them has their number roll up. Was he taking more risk than the other 2 skiers that came along the same run a half-hour later and found him dead? They didn't get caught in the avalanche and he had all the available safety gear. He was just unlucky that day.

    Did you see the interview with the Girdwood gal who survived the Washington avalanche because of her airbag system? They were doing everything right. They were assessing slopes, going in singles, and stopping in safe zones where there were stands of old growth forest. That avalanche came down an area that wasn't an avalanche chute and through an old tree stand. She beat the odds only due to the deployment of the airbag. The other 3 were unlucky that day. Their numbers came up while she cheated death via conscious decision.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    I disagree. We can all sit at home hiding in bomb shelters for fear of ever getting hurt. Or, we can get out there and play; live life doing what excites and motivates you. Walking out the front door requires assumption of a certain level of risk. Some have a much higher risk threshold and might go on backcountry solo snowboarding trips in Colorado. Every once in awhile, one of them has their number roll up. Was he taking more risk than the other 2 skiers that came along the same run a half-hour later and found him dead? They didn't get caught in the avalanche and he had all the available safety gear. He was just unlucky that day.

    Did you see the interview with the Girdwood gal who survived the Washington avalanche because of her airbag system? They were doing everything right. They were assessing slopes, going in singles, and stopping in safe zones where there were stands of old growth forest. That avalanche came down an area that wasn't an avalanche chute and through an old tree stand. She beat the odds only due to the deployment of the airbag. The other 3 were unlucky that day. Their numbers came up while she cheated death via conscious decision.
    Yes, I saw the interview. Attached is the preliminary accident report with the facts of the situation: Attachment 57524


    I won't propose to speak for Erik in AK, but I'll stand by his statement. It bears repeating.
    Quote Originally Posted by Erik in AK View Post
    No amount of gear replaces knowing how to assess the conditions and staying away when they are unstable.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
    #Resist

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    I'm not totally disagreeing with Eric's post, but it is akin to saying something similar about other activities that are just as dangerous, such as driving a car through Anchorage. Rather than "staying away", I'd say you should learn to assess the slope and snow conditions, always bring and use all the safety gear you can, never travel alone, and be constantly attentive to your surroundings. There are certainly times when you should look around and say, "let's go to the Zoo today". But that will not totally eliminate the hazard, even on days where you think it is "stable".
    Winter is Coming...

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    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    Yeah, the beacon hype has always been puzzling to me. Whether it be a lone telemarker or a snowmachiner, it's almost laughable that they are carrying a beacon on solo outings. Or you have the small group and only one guy has a beacon. I guess you can look at it from the body recovery standpoint... we might not have to wait until breakup to hold the funeral.

    I guess I equate these avalanche airbags to vehicle airbags. It's a life saving device, not a body recovery device. Just like the airbag in a car will only protect you in certain situtations, the avalanche airbag will only keep you afloat in certain situations. Flying off a cliff and breaking your head open on a tree is far beyond what any airbag could protect you from.
    Beacons save more lives than airbags ever will. Period. I wear my beacon when I go solo. In this day and age, you are never alone in the backcountry. Especially in Alaska. People see avalanches happen. Just because they aren't your ski-buddy, or didn't come out with you doesn't mean they won't be there as fast as they humanly can to help with the search and recovery. People don't just stand on the ridge and think.. oh well, his buddies will dig him out, or oh well, he shouldn't be out here alone. No. They work their ass off to try and save you, and if you don't have a beacon just because you are solo for the day... not gonna happen. Skiing or riding without a beacon is hands down stupid. I WILL NOT ski with anyone that does not have a beacon, probe, and shovel. In my opinion a rookie with those tools is more good to me than the most experienced CPG guide without them.

    Wear your beacons people!! Always. I can't save you and you can't save me without them. And if you do have to help with a rescue--please please please show up with your beacons already in search mode so as not to confuse anyone already on scene!!


    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    Was he taking more risk than the other 2 skiers that came along the same run a half-hour later and found him dead? They didn't get caught in the avalanche and he had all the available safety gear. He was just unlucky that day.
    OF COURSE he was taking more risk. He was alone. If he had a buddy with a beacon, shovel, and probe and even a shred of an idea on how to use it, he might still be alive. UNLUCKY?? BS. He was riding high consequence terrain ALONE... spells out stupid in my book. Airbags are great, a great great tool. But it's still just a tool. You have to understand its uses and it's limits and not get into a false sense of security just because you have the latest and greatest safety tool. I wear a lifevest when I packraft... doesn't mean I won't drown...

    Also, on Lujons comment. Airbags are more popular with snowmachiners for one simple reason. Money. To a guy with a 14000$ sled (or two), Towed in a 15000$ enclosed trailer by his 40000$ jacked up duramax-- 900$ for an airbag pack is nothing.

    However, It seems like a significant sum of money to someone rocking the same ski boots for years, with the liners almost wore out, and the same bindings for years, probably with a kickass pair of new skis they got pro-dealed from a buddy. AND.. lets face it. That kind of dough could seriously cut into the beer budget. Something skiers take seriously.




    I am saving for an airbag pack. Hopefully next season I will have a Mystery Ranch blackjack on my back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by icb12 View Post
    Beacons save more lives than airbags ever will. Period. I wear my beacon when I go solo. In this day and age, you are never alone in the backcountry. Especially in Alaska...
    Excellent post icb. You make number of great points and really got me thinking. But your first two statements seem rather bold. "Beacons save more lives than airbags ever will. Period." How can you be so sure? Airbags haven't been around that long so the data are lacking but from what I've heard, it sounds like airbags will eventually save more lives than beacons because they improve your chances of not getting buried. I have heard that if youíre avalanched and get buried you have a 48 percent chance of surviving. If youíre avalanched and donít get buried you have a 96 percent chance of surviving. In other words, to survive an avalanche, donít get buried. And recent statistics show that airbags effectively prevent burial. In Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, Bruce Temper notes that normally 10 percent of people caught in avalanches die. With airbags, only 1.5 percent die. So one way of interpreting the data suggests that airbags work ten times better than beacon, shovel, and probes combined.

    And as for "you are never alone in the backcountry. Especially in Alaska" just gotta say, with all respect, speak for yourself.


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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    With due respect, I must counter that the one thing which saves exponentially more lives than beacons and airbags combined, is knowledge and common sense.

    Take a good class, more than once. Learn how to evaluate and understand snowpack. Practice what you learn every time you go out. Carefully and thoroughly evaluate terrain and snow conditions. Dig pits and study the pack. Make wise decisions. The most important safety tool you can employ is your brain.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
    #Resist

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Sorry, but a beacon in and of itself has never once saved a life. It takes another person to perform the life saving part and that works only if he has all the other tools, knows how to use the search function, gets to you within minutes, and you're not dead from the trauma of the avalanche in the first place.

    Beacons are a small part of a larger tool and skill kit that relies on others to save you after the fact.

    By contrast, the airbag is the only item yet developed that has a chance of actually saving you during the event.

    You'd be a fool not to use every tool in the kit, to include airbag, beacon, and buddies.
    Winter is Coming...

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    Quote Originally Posted by sterlingsurfer View Post
    Excellent post icb. You make number of great points and really got me thinking. But your first two statements seem rather bold. "Beacons save more lives than airbags ever will. Period." How can you be so sure? Airbags haven't been around that long so the data are lacking but from what I've heard, it sounds like airbags will eventually save more lives than beacons because they improve your chances of not getting buried. I have heard that if youíre avalanched and get buried you have a 48 percent chance of surviving. If youíre avalanched and donít get buried you have a 96 percent chance of surviving. In other words, to survive an avalanche, donít get buried. And recent statistics show that airbags effectively prevent burial. In Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, Bruce Temper notes that normally 10 percent of people caught in avalanches die. With airbags, only 1.5 percent die. So one way of interpreting the data suggests that airbags work ten times better than beacon, shovel, and probes combined.

    And as for "you are never alone in the backcountry. Especially in Alaska" just gotta say, with all respect, speak for yourself.

    It may seem bold. And truthfully, I hope one day I am wrong. The simple fact is, that for an airbag to save you... you have to actually have an airbag. Only 2 people I ski/ride with actually have airbag packs. On a whole day of skiing in turnagain pass, you might see ONE on somebodies back. They are rare enough, that when you see somebody wearing one, you strike up a conversation about it.

    I also suspect that the more popular airbags get, the less effective they will be. There will be a lot more instances like colorado, where it just didn't help him. Where someone isn't wearing their leg straps and it does them no good, where the avy just rips the pack off their back anyway. Or where people just flat out die from trauma, airbag or no airbag. Just the way life works.

    And I don't know where you're skiing, but send me the location. Skiing here in Alaska is much like the sheep hunting situation. Close to the road it's packed with people, you keep going and going, theres less and less people, but eventually, if you keep walking you're just going to run into CPG tracks from heli drops, just like you run into super cub strips when hunting. You've got a fairly limited amount of daylight, and a LOT of people trying to use the same mountains. You're very very rarely alone if you're skiing anything between Summit Lake and Girdwood. Even if you are the only one(s) on the mountain theres most likely somebody on a neighboring mountain who will see you get buried and call help, and/or be there as fast as they can to find you and dig you out.

    Maybe if you sled-ski you can get into some pretty remote stuff- but even then If you're taking a sled there, Im sure someone else is too. Facts of life.



    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    With due respect, I must counter that the one thing which saves exponentially more lives than beacons and airbags combined, is knowledge and common sense.

    Take a good class, more than once. Learn how to evaluate and understand snowpack. Practice what you learn every time you go out. Carefully and thoroughly evaluate terrain and snow conditions. Dig pits and study the pack. Make wise decisions. The most important safety tool you can employ is your brain.

    I agree. 100% Agree in fact. Does not change the fact that with stable snow, favorable weather, and wise decisions. Sometimes S*** happens. Freak things. Things that SHOULD NOT happen; but they do. We both know that. If freak things did not happen, then I wouldn't bother carrying my shovel probe and beacon. If freak things did not happen, airbags would not have been developed. And we wouldn't be having this conversation- because only stupid people would die in avalanches.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icb12 View Post
    Even if you are the only one(s) on the mountain theres most likely somebody on a neighboring mountain who will see you get buried and call help, and/or be there as fast as they can to find you and dig you out.
    That right there is why I still wear my beacon and carry my shovel and probe when I go out alone. I do my best to avoid going alone and when I do so I stay to low angle, comparatively safe terrain. That being said, I still carry the gear in case I see someone on a nearby slope get buried. There have been plenty of instances where someone unassociated with the person buried has a hand in rescuing them. An earlier post called it "laughable" to carry one when going solo, but I would think it irresponsible not to. Those few ounces of gear might save my life, someone else's life, or...yes, might just make it easier to find my body and help my family through the grief process.

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    Member icb12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    That right there is why I still wear my beacon and carry my shovel and probe when I go out alone. I do my best to avoid going alone and when I do so I stay to low angle, comparatively safe terrain. That being said, I still carry the gear in case I see someone on a nearby slope get buried. There have been plenty of instances where someone unassociated with the person buried has a hand in rescuing them. An earlier post called it "laughable" to carry one when going solo, but I would think it irresponsible not to. Those few ounces of gear might save my life, someone else's life, or...yes, might just make it easier to find my body and help my family through the grief process.
    Did you get some turns in this weekend Brian?

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icb12 View Post
    Did you get some turns in this weekend Brian?
    No. I should have yesterday while the weather was nice, but took a friend predator hunting instead. I was hoping to make some turns today, but got my schedule backwards. I just got down from hiking my backyard mountain and it was blowing a sustained 50 at the top with gusts of easily 70+. With the longer daylight, though, I might try for some after-work turns this week.

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