So, you think the beacon wars are cutthroat? Let’s see what happens with airbag avalanche safety backpacks. Backcountry Access is retailing their Float 30 as we speak, several Euro companies tout them as well, and now Mystery Ranch enters the fray.
At winter Outdoor Retailer (we’ll be there in January) pack makers Mystery Ranch will unveil their creation. They’re calling it the Blackjack, and it looks like backcountry skiing safety innovation will be alive and well in this category. We’re of course concerned that Mystery Ranch will continue the disappointing weight trend in airbag packs, but perhaps they’ll come up with something cool in Dyneema or other space age fabrics that can ease our loads a bit. Check out the features this guy will probably have:
– Airbag technology with 150 liter airbag deigned for head-up orientation.
– Airbag components are removable for super safe days you want to go light.
– Refillable compressed air canister .
– Release trigger can be configured for a righty or lefty
– Custom fit harnessing
– Top loading 2,600 cubic inch backpack.
– Full side zip access (yawn).
– (ATP) Avalanche Tool Pocket.
– Ski carry: A Frame or Diagonal.
– Snowboard Carry: Vertical.
– Ice Axe loops.
– Shoulder strap with zipper accessory pocket.
– Waistbelt contains harnessing leg loop.
Expect airbag backpacks to become popular for backcountry skiing, as they now have a long history of documented saves. Combine with Black Diamond Avalung, and perhaps the holy grail of zero avalanche entrainment suffocation risk will finally be achieved. After that, we can start figuring out how to defend against the physical trauma that’ll still kill you in many slides, even if you’re not buried. On that subject, it’s important to note that airbag backpacks work better in terrain without “strainer” timber that’s sure to bash you up no matter what safety gear you’ve got strapped on your body. Ditto for cliffs and other terrain traps. Considering all that, if you tend to ski avalanche terrain wearing a helmet is most certainly a good idea, as is having release ski bindings with brakes instead of retention straps.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.