Department of print media worth more than a glance:
The March 2007 graced our mailbox a few days ago. Along with the mag’s articles and enjoyable display of full page “Chute Corps Gallery” photos, I enjoyed publisher Dostie’s opening editorial about the desirability of effective binding release for avalanche safety during backcountry skiing.
Many (if not most) skiers and snowboarders with an avalanche in their past will tell you that having said toys attached to their feet during their ride for life made it more like a plunge to death. My own experiences prove that out, and intuition eliminates the one tenth of one percent of doubt I might retain.
Thus, I’ve always found it unfortunate that people ski avalanche slopes with randonee bindings dialed up with DIN numbers worthy of King Kong — or use non-release cable bindings (otherwise known as telemark bindings).
But is safety release (even properly adjusted) enough to help you reliably “throw a shoe” in an avalanche? In the case of rando bindings, forces from an avalanche may not mimic the release pressure a binding is designed for, so any DIN you pick may be too much. As for tele bindings, statistics seem to show safety release may not be that important for day-to-day skiing — so tele backcountry skiers will probably continue using non-release bindings.
All this leads to the conclusion that the next level in avalanche safety will be some sort of deployment trigger that sheds your skis or board, inflates an airbag, and perhaps invokes a passive Avalung-like device.
Lashing this up is a bit beyond my welder and disk grinder — I guess I’ll leave it to trained professionals.
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.