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Author Topic: How effective are avalanche airbags?  (Read 29446 times)
Donnelly_M
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How effective are avalanche airbags?
« on: 03/12/17, 05:59 PM »

Considering I do a lot of solo skiing and feel a need to start switching my skiing up by doing more off piste skiing,I figure my best option is to have an avalanche airbag. How effective are these devices?Could they also help protect the individual from a massive fall over rocks? From this video, it looks like a worthy investment. I figure with no wife and or kids, I might as well start skiing as such!lol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZUau1J5vig
« Last Edit: 03/12/17, 06:11 PM by Donnelly_M » Logged
Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #1 on: 03/20/17, 11:26 AM »

Here's a good way to get an introduction into one of the better studies on the subject:

https://www.wildsnow.com/18262/avalanche-airbag-statistics-metrics/
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sgertz
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #2 on: 03/20/17, 12:46 PM »

I have a BCA Float 42 that I use most days I go out, and I love it. However, I will say that when I consider terrain, I still ski conservatively. My understanding is that airbag packs don't protect you from hitting trees, or being swept off of cliffs. The only airbag packs that do anything to protect you from trauma are the Mammut Protection packs, and they only protect your head. It's still very possible to get smashed into a tree, etc and break bones, or other sustain other injuries.

I believe most airbags inflate to a volume of approx. 100-150L
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aaron_wright
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #3 on: 03/20/17, 03:36 PM »

An airbag deployment most likely saved the life of a skier in that tunnel creak avalanche.
Do you think so? She wasn't found very far from the other skiers that died from unsurvivable trauma. Do you think that she might have been extremely lucky?
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rlsg
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #4 on: 03/20/17, 06:06 PM »

Seems there was a fatality from avalanche at Crested Butte back a year or so?  The person had an airbag pack on and apparently the avalanche total destroyed the bag.  Probably works more times than not I'm guessing, though...
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BCSchonwald
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #5 on: 03/20/17, 07:39 PM »

The airbags are effective when there is little to no consequences of trauma(trees, over cliffs, into rocks..). They are effective in preventing full burial and the only tool that can help with that.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24909367
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flowing alpy
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #6 on: 03/21/17, 06:30 AM »

That's gonna mess with the aerodynamics
in pursuit of your Olympic downhill dream
imho.
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gravitymk
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #7 on: 03/21/17, 11:02 AM »

The airbags are effective when there is little to no consequences of trauma(trees, over cliffs, into rocks..). They are effective in preventing full burial and the only tool that can help with that.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24909367

Terrain traps are a known exception to this statement.
« Last Edit: 03/21/17, 05:31 PM by gravitymk » Logged
aaron_wright
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #8 on: 03/21/17, 11:55 AM »

yea- she was lucky, but the airbag may have kept her near the surface and therefore she may have avoided the main energy of the washing machine effect of being way down in the debris flow.

hard to know for sure, but i believe that she was found just under the surface.

i do believe, however, that once a person becomes involved in any accident, luck plays a role in the outcome.


Two of the three fatalities were near or on the surface. The woman was completely buried except for her hands and her bag was deflated.
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pipedream
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #9 on: 03/21/17, 11:13 PM »

Avy airbags are a last resort tool that by the time you've deployed you've bypassed several red flags and gone somewhere you shouldn't have been. I have one, it doesn't influence my decision-making on terrain based on conditions and what we've been observing. I still tour often with folks who don't have an airbag system and that also helps us make smart decisions.

About the only thing it's changed is drop ordering - usually someone with an airbag goes first and does any necessary ski-cutting since it provides a slightly higher chance survival / protection should the unforseeable happen
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aaron_wright
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #10 on: 03/22/17, 07:04 AM »



also her head was above the surface according an article that i just read. Like i said, sounds like the airbag played a part in her survival, but hard to know for sure.
Which article? The accident report and her account say that her head was locked in the snow and she was able to brush some snow off her face, only because her arms were not buried, but could not move her head. Did you look at the pictures of the gully the victims traveled through? Her bag was deflated when she was extracted. I think she's just extremely lucky she avoided he trauma that killed her partners.

I'm not saying avalanche bags won't help you if you're caught in open terrain and I think they are worth carrying if you spend a lot of time touring above treeline.
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gravitymk
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #11 on: 03/22/17, 10:47 AM »

Avy airbags are a last resort tool that by the time you've deployed you've bypassed several red flags and gone somewhere you shouldn't have been. I have one, it doesn't influence my decision-making on terrain based on conditions and what we've been observing. I still tour often with folks who don't have an airbag system and that also helps us make smart decisions.

About the only thing it's changed is drop ordering - usually someone with an airbag goes first and does any necessary ski-cutting since it provides a slightly higher chance survival / protection should the unforseeable happen

Gear should not influence travel/terrain selection choices period.
If you are making a choice based upon the idea that you are carrying gear to mitigate risk, then you are already playing against a staked deck. Better to look for reasons not to go, than the other way around.
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pipedream
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #12 on: 03/22/17, 02:20 PM »

If we left all the safety gear in the car, we wouldn't leave the parking lot.

My comment about terrain selection stands. I don't go anywhere I wouldn't without an airbag just because I or anyone else has one. This thread reminds me of that idiot on TGR who used to post about the East Vail Chutes and how he felt it was his civic duty to cut and ride them to keep them safe for the newbies who end-up back there underequipped and underinformed about the dangers of the near-resort backcountry. He stated numerous times that he felt safe doing that solo because of his airbag and avalung systems.

You can't cure stupid, but you can refuse to follow it into the BC.
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Scotsman
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #13 on: 03/22/17, 06:31 PM »

An airbag deployment most likely saved the life of a skier in that tunnel creak avalanche.

i don't use one because of the added pack weight and a bad back.There's also the question of taking greater risks due to having one and perceived avalanche protection (see risk homostasis theory)

i am trying to get a local designer intertested in designing a light weight air tight pack that you would blow up, using lung power or light weight volume pump, before you descend.

the idea is to inflate the pack volume after you empty the pack of your descent kit.

 An inflated pack may also help with tree well falls and object hits, as well as avys.

I don't know if it would have the volume of an airbag however.



Good you are innovating... and Im not putting your idea down but avy air bags do not work on the theory of flotation( a common and understandable mistake)... they work on the theory of substantially larger mass that causes bigger objects to rise to the top during the flow of the avalanche..not my opinion...science...google it. Your inflated pack would have to somehow increase the pack volume by a factor of at least 3 over a normal pack to be the equivalent of an air bag....something to think about.

 http://www.snowbigdeal.com/avalanche-safety-gear/avalanche-airbags/how-avalanche-airbags-work.html
« Last Edit: 03/22/17, 06:41 PM by Scotsman » Logged

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Scotsman
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #14 on: 03/22/17, 06:36 PM »

Considering I do a lot of solo skiing and feel a need to start switching my skiing up by doing more off piste skiing,I figure my best option is to have an avalanche airbag. How effective are these devices?Could they also help protect the individual from a massive fall over rocks? From this video, it looks like a worthy investment. I figure with no wife and or kids, I might as well start skiing as such!lol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZUau1J5vig

They have proved to be effective in certain circumstances.
They are heavy and depending on the type you buy, can be a pain in the ass to travel with and get refills.
Not sure the electric versions are fully proven yet and Im waiting for the next cycle of electric ones before I update my current snowpulse bag.
I like that ones that offer head protection via the inflated bag which is why I bought the one I have.
I'm sure you can figure out the heuristic traps they can produce without being lectured to.

If you can afford it...why not?

Check Wildsnow for the definitive review.
https://www.wildsnow.com/5014/avalanche-airbag-backpack-overview/
« Last Edit: 03/22/17, 06:48 PM by Scotsman » Logged

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gravitymk
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #15 on: 03/22/17, 08:01 PM »

My comment about terrain selection stands.

Your propensity for the need to be "right' is in and of it's self a heuristic trap.
You don't know what you don't know.
« Last Edit: 03/22/17, 08:07 PM by gravitymk » Logged
Scotsman
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #16 on: 03/22/17, 09:16 PM »

My inflated ego would add another 15L. ;-)

Don't be so modest.... Much more than that Wink
Im heading to Haines tomorrow to inflate my own ego and will be a heli- fan boy for a few days.
I'll let you know how the guides stack up compared to our beloved NCH guides.
Interestingly enough they provide you with a mandatory avy air bag pack and a mandatory harness.
Hope the weather cooperates.
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Chamois
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #17 on: 03/28/17, 11:31 AM »

There was a good presentation on this subject a couple years ago at the NW Avy summit at UW - I've looked online for it but could not find it.  One of the difficulties in trying to calculate a statistical advantage (or not) of using air bags is trying to find avy events where there were folks with and without airbags AND the individuals were subject to similar conditions.

If I remember the conclusion correctly it was that air bags did increase your chance of survival by less than 20% - so as usual it depends on how and where you ski.

There were some not very good examples - some skiers that did have bags, for various reasons, did not deploy them.   And in two examples skiers undid the crotch strap as it was uncomfortable, got caught in an avy, and deployed their air bag.  But they died because the bag pulled off their shoulders w/o the crotch strap.  Jesus - if you are going to carry the dang thing use it as directed!
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Jonathan_S.
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #18 on: 04/06/17, 01:46 PM »

If you want a somewhat more "breezy" presentation on the research, my presentation to a regional "SAW" is linked from the second paragraph here:
http://avycourse.blogspot.com/2010/04/additional-educational-resources.html
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snojones
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #19 on: 12/10/17, 10:40 AM »

An airbag deployment most likely saved the life of a skier in that tunnel creak avalanche.

i don't use one because of the added pack weight and a bad back.There's also the question of taking greater risks due to having one and perceived avalanche protection (see risk homostasis theory)

i am trying to get a local designer intertested in designing a light weight air tight pack that you would blow up, using lung power or light weight volume pump, before you descend.

the idea is to inflate the pack volume after you empty the pack of your descent kit.

 An inflated pack may also help with tree well falls and object  hits, as well as avys.

I don't know if it would  have the volume of an airbag however.



I have also wanted an inflatable pack for another reason, backcountry skiing out of a wilderness camp.  Once you remove all your camp gear from your pack, it becomes difficult to carry your skis on that pack. The loose skis end up banging my calves. 

I have taken to packing a beach ball, which I stuff into the empty pack body, and then  inflate to stiffen up the pack body.  This really helps keep the skis from flopping around as I climb. Your inflatable pack could possibly do double duty in this regard.


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gravitymk
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #20 on: 12/11/17, 09:07 AM »

An inflatable air mattress works well for this function and it's likely something that you would carry anyway. I have an older full length Therm-a-rest Ultralight that I have used for the purpose of providing enough volume in the pack to make a-frame ski carry manageable.
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Micah
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #21 on: 12/11/17, 10:09 AM »

An inflatable air mattress works well for this function and it's likely something that you would carry anyway. I have an older full length Therm-a-rest Ultralight that I have used for the purpose of providing enough volume in the pack to make a-frame ski carry manageable.

Thanks for the tip, that sounds like a good idea that I had not thought of!
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davidG
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #22 on: 02/27/18, 09:45 AM »

hey Scotsman did you ever ask those Alaskan guides if they report their near-miss accidents to their potential client base?
....

Whether we refer to such things as near misses or incidents, 'reporting' these things is good for the industry for more reasons than this immediate suggestion..  The more incidents with no consequence relative to those that do have consequence establishes a better picture of risk.  As an example, in the hangliding community, the insurance market has a keen interest in understanding that ratio.  What was perceived as a high risk endeavor, with commensurate insurance rates, has demonstrated with broader reporting of incidents with low or no consequence, that risk is lower than anticipated.  Consequently, insurance rates have fallen.

It would be interesting to know in the heli-ski industry how this matter is perceived.  I've enjoyed my few Heli-skis and have felt safely prepped and guided.
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snoqpass
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #23 on: 03/04/18, 01:32 PM »

Posting bogus observations under the alias “Observations for Money” on NWAC is a douche move
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #24 on: 03/04/18, 04:04 PM »

Posting bogus observations under the alias “Observations for Money” on NWAC is a douche move

I was glad to see that NWAC had taken it down by mid-day yesterday. I see now that there's a remaining one from 2/20.  Just sent an email to let them know.
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0321Recon
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #25 on: 03/04/18, 07:58 PM »

Considering I do a lot of solo skiing and feel a need to start switching my skiing up by doing more off piste skiing,�I figure my best option is to have an avalanche airbag. How effective are these devices?�Could they also help protect the individual from a massive fall over rocks?� From this video, it looks like a worthy investment. I figure with no wife and or kids, I might as well start skiing as such!lol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZUau1J5vig

In addition to report linked by GravityMK, The WMS rates airbags as 1B, so besides not going, current evidence supports airbags at being at the top of preventing morbidity.
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Chris S
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #26 on: 03/05/18, 09:04 AM »

Posting bogus observations under the alias “Observations for Money” on NWAC is a douche move

What am I missing? What does bogus observations have to do with this thread?
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Chris
Jim Oker
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #27 on: 03/06/18, 10:57 AM »

What am I missing? What does bogus observations have to do with this thread?
It's  a tangent to  the tangent about "near miss reporting" by guide operations. *Someone* posted some bogus NWAC observation  reports that were clearly  taking aim at this same issue. Which some of us see as taking a dump out in the shared commons and unlikely to garner any added support on  that issue.
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Jason4
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #28 on: 03/06/18, 01:53 PM »

From what I've read about the recent double fatality in the Teanaway area both of the riders that died had deployed their airbags.  It will be interesting to see the full NWAC accident report.
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Jim Oker
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #29 on: 03/06/18, 02:01 PM »

I saw one social  media post where it was claimed that  one of them was buried something like 14' deep =8-O

Sounded like one of the survivors had serious  trauma and will be lucky to regain decent use of one leg.
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gravitymk
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #30 on: 03/06/18, 02:09 PM »

From what I've read about the recent double fatality in the Teanaway area both of the riders that died had deployed their airbags.  It will be interesting to see the full NWAC accident report.

A post in Snowest states the same.
Here are a couple of quotes with names redacted in case they aren't yet public.

"name withheld was buried way down like 15’ with a bag on and deployed"

"name withheld had a bca 32 pack on and it COMPLETELY ripped the air bag off the AVY pack and he was buried and down a few feet with the empty avy pack attached to him"


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Chris S
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #31 on: 03/07/18, 01:12 PM »

Wow. Debris 15' deep (or deeper) indicates a massive avalanche - D3-4.
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Chris
cumulus
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #32 on: 03/07/18, 01:37 PM »

So much for airbags "being at the top of preventing morbidity,"  or it being the next best thing to staying at home... These were horrific tragedies and my heart goes out to their families and loved ones.

I think it's worth pondering how the use of airbags may make one feel more invincible--less prone to morbidity--and how this may lead us to put ourselves in a situation we may otherwise not be in.
And if so, it would seem the whole airbag thing is working counter to its stated intention of increased safety...

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Stefan
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #33 on: 03/07/18, 09:29 PM »

Mostly these fatalities seem to be related to inexperienced people not knowing as much as they think they do about where to be (or not) in dangerous conditions....back to terrain choice, obviously.  Airbag seems to have little to do with it.  The 'bilers we're parked in a runout, no?  Ignorance of the potential danger.
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Jim Oker
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #34 on: 03/08/18, 08:24 AM »

Good point. It's presumably hard to float when the ipile  just comes down onto you.
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #35 on: 03/08/18, 09:50 AM »

Wow. Debris 15' deep (or deeper) indicates a massive avalanche - D3-4.

The images on Snowest suggest that terrain-trap amplification of burial depth was possible. NWAC is calling it D2.5 in the short statement on the accident page.
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cumulus
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #36 on: 03/08/18, 09:54 AM »

Mostly these fatalities seem to be related to inexperienced people not knowing as much as they think they do about where to be (or not) in dangerous conditions....back to terrain choice, obviously. 

You seem pretty sure of yourself.
I don't think it's so obvious.

The word 'experienced' or 'inexperienced' means nothing here. I think if you look at the majority of avalanche fatalities you will find the deceased described as experienced. You can chalk that up to the law of ratios... the more you go, the more likely...  But in the end, whether experienced or inexperienced, it always comes down to "people not knowing as much as they think they do."


Or maybe they do...   and they think they can get away with it.
Who really knows?

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Stefan
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #37 on: 03/08/18, 11:07 AM »

Thanks for the link Charlie. That pic is no picnic.

The riders are refreshingly frank in their discussion, worth going over to take a look (you have to become a member to do so).


a quote from Snowest.com re Gallagher 180303 avi apropos airbags:  "I ride around 50 times a year so my actual riding miles and experience sometimes out weighs guys who have been riding for 10 years. When I first got into the sport I went out and bought a beacon, shovel, and Avy pack. My first couple years the mentality I had was I have all the stuff if I am in an Avy I'll pull the cord and I'll be fine. I don't blame shops or other riders for giving me this mentality but this IS the stigma in the sport."

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Stefan
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #38 on: 03/08/18, 11:15 AM »

fuck it, here's the rest of the quote. It's too good not to quote in its entirety -

"I see 50 people leave the Snopark every weekend wearing Avy packs that don't even have the riding ability where they should even be in an area where they would ever need an Avy pack. I mean are you even serious throwing a Avy pack on your wife? Is it so she can pull the cord when she is in a run out watching you sidehill above her? Yet the shops continue to sell them to anyone who walks in the door. When my buddy Josh Roth was killed last year my outlook on avalanches completely changed. I no longer was thinking about how I would survive an avalanche. I was thinking about how I can I completely avoid one altogether. A lot of people criticize me now because I rarely ride with an air bag but I don't give a **** what anyone says those things give you false confidence. It may be 100% subliminal but they DO. If you were dropped in the backcountry in your T shirt with none of your supplier or Avy gear you would 100% change what you would hit and what you wouldn't hit. There are plenty of people on this forum that have seen me ride and I am sure would criticize choices they have seen me make. I am no saint nor can I say I am the safest person on the mountain. I do assess each situation though and make my choices based on my assessment. I however never put anyone in my group in a situation where I am telling them they have to do something. If one single person in a group feels uncomfortable then the whole group should be uncomfortable and go another route. I love Kyle to death and this absolutely tears me apart that this happened. I wish I hadn't been in McCall and I was with him that day. Once again this is a huge game changer for me moving forward and riding after this accident. I can't stress enough though about the decisions we make in the backcountry. Because I can 100% guarantee the day there is some random avalanche that kills anyone I know that nobody could have done anything about I will give away my sleds and never ride again...
"
- Chadly
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #39 on: 03/08/18, 03:28 PM »

 
Quote
If one single person in a group feels uncomfortable then the whole group should be uncomfortable and go another route.


It goes without saying (even though I'm saying it), that group dynamics should be such that that single person feels free to speak up.  Without being considered a wuss.
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Re: How effective are avalanche airbags?
« Reply #40 on: 03/08/18, 05:06 PM »

It's a tangent to the tangent about "near miss reporting" by guide operations. *Someone* posted some bogus NWAC observation  reports that were clearly  taking aim at this same issue. Which some of us see as taking a dump out in the shared commons and unlikely to garner any added support on  that issue.

Heli-Free North Cascades admitted to being that "someone." He wrote:

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=39779.msg160357#msg160357

Quote
an observation that I reported on the nwac observations page and made under the name "vague observations for money" disappeared, presumably deleted. I reported two significant Avalanches which we encountered on a tour on March 1st and I posted those observations early in the morning on March 2nd.  Since we saw fresh ski tracks near one of the Avalanches we did a quick transceiver search with no results. That was also reported.

Nwac, in my opinion, has a guide centric bias.

Maybe they didn't like my political public safety message along with my observation. I'm concerned if a government agency deleted the public record.

I sent nwac an email concerning this issue and have not heard back, or even an acknowledgement that the email was received.

Two days later we had our first skier Avy fatality here on the North Eastside Cascades.

Several people have speculated the NWAC deleted the observation because the poster's handle ("vague observations for money") made the whole thing sound bogus. That seems like a reasonable conclusion to me.

Regarding HFNC's concern about a government agency deleting a public post, I suggest that he educate himself about NWAC's structure. NWAC is a non-profit, educational organization that works in partnership with Forest Service employees (the forecasters) who generate the forecasts. As far as I know, the NWAC website is under control of the non-profit organization and is not a government resource. See:

https://www.nwac.us/support/frequently-asked-questions/
« Last Edit: 03/08/18, 06:20 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
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