An avalanche occurs when something such as a person or even mother nature herself disturbs the snow layers in the mountains and causes it to rapidly flow down a slope. Sometimes the avalanches occur because of melting snow or unnatural disturbances and can be deadly for anything in its path. It is important when skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, or engaging in any activities where an avalanche may occur that you are prepared for the worst. One thing that could save your life is an avalanche airbag.
What Are Avalanche Airbags
Think of a life vest you carry on your back that you can activate and inflate with the pull of a lever or cord, and you have an avalanche airbag. It is a complex safety airbag which will keep you from being buried deep under snow slips.
Avalanche airbags are an improvement on the avalanche ball, which was a device that deployed a ball tethered to a long cord. In the event of an avalanche, you could deploy this ball and, if the ball ended up the surface, rescuers could follow the ball to you. Unlike avalanche airbags, this particular device was never proven to work.
How Avalanche Airbags Work
In a study of avalanche fatalities in western Canada, 75% of deaths were as a result of asphyxia. Avalanche airbags work to reduce these numbers by the principle of inverse segregation, which says larger objects in a mix tend to stay on top. Say for instance, you have a box of cereal or a bag of popcorn. If you shake it, smaller pieces like seeds or crumbs tend to fall to the bottom while other parts, like popped kernels or whole corn flakes, will remain on top because of their larger size.
The airbags employ this theory by allowing you to have more surface area in the event of an accident. You will be bigger—not heavier—thus making you more likely to “float” to the surface rather than become buried under piles of snow.
Do Avalanche Airbags Work?
So the theory behind avalanche airbags is sound, but do they really work? Consider this: in the event of an avalanche, an average of one in four people without an avalanche airbag will not survive. In a study of one avalanche airbag brand, of 262 people who activated their airbags, only 3% died. An amazing 84% of people walked away with no injuries.
In the United States, avalanches pose a particular danger, as many accidents occur below the tree line, where skiers and snowboarders are more liable to injury, specifically head trauma. Yet, snowmobilers have been the fastest to adopt this new technology.
However, not all avalanche airbags are created equal. Different brands can come with a variety of different features, from a ski carrying system to hydration bladder compatibility, or added compartments so you can bring along other belongings.
If you are an avid outdoorsmen (or woman) and enjoy time in the snow, you should always be prepared. Although rare, avalanches are unpredictable, frightening occurrences. But like car accidents, you should be prepared for the worst. Purchase an avalanche airbag and rest assured you are significantly safer in the event of a disaster.
Marc Avatin is a sports enthusiast and regular contributor for sports-related blogs and websites. He also works with companies to boost brand awareness with thoughtful articles on sports safety and products.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia