Up, Up and Be Saved!
At the Outdoor Retailer show, BCA is presenting a new airbag-equipped backpack called the Float 30. Yeah, it’s hydration-compatible, has nifty pockets and will carry skis or a snowboard–all the stuff you’d want on a winter pack. But it also features a wild new avalanche-safety device: Should you find yourself being swept away in a juggernaut of raging snow, you deploy the single-chamber, 150-liter airbag that expands behind your head. The thinking is, that crescent-shaped bag of air will keep you near the top of avalanche debris and shorten the amount of time it takes to dig you out. Sound implausible? It’s not. Snow scientists have long observed that bigger, bulkier objects tend to get pushed to the top of settling snow–a phenomenon they call the “brazil nut effect.”
Airbag-equipped backpacks are already used in Europe, where, according to BCA reps, they have a 98% survival rate: Just 2% of airbag-wearing skiers have perished in slides. But, BCA says, the Float 30 isn’t intended to replace avalanche-avoidance skills. It’s a cool snow safety tool, but it’s not as cool as staying out of a slide in the first place.