What’s in your backpack? Stacking the deck in your favor

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Just a few days ago, while gazing over at the destruction from the recent avalanche in Bear Pits at Crystal Mountain, a fellow patroller and I discussed the merits of the

Backcountry Access Float30

avalanche floatation backpacks. Essentially these contraptions are designed to keep an avalanche victim on the surface if caught in a slide with large balloons that inflate with the pull of a string, much like a PFD would do in the water.

A few patrollers have tested BCA’s Float 30 airbag, wearing it on avalanche control days. The system fits inside a backpack with room for shovel, probe and other equipment. It adds a bit of weight and bulk to an already heavy pack loaded with explosives. But as you’ll see in the video below, that extra 8 lbs just might save your life.

Check out this video below of a skier in Alaska getting caught in an avalanche and deploying the unit, which keeps him on top. I find this video a little horrifying, especially the moment when the slab starts to break up and the skier hesitates. I can only imagine what’s going through his mind. Oh no. What do I do now? But surprisingly, through it all, the guy never screams or says a word–the audio only picks up the sound of the snow and air moving across the mic. I’d say this guy is one lucky dude.

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11 responses »

  1. Wow. That was amazing. Thanks for sharing the info, and the surprising video. I’m posting this link. I think Colorado skiers should know that nifty little life-saving device is an option – and that it can work. I mean, wow.

  2. WOW! Sounds like he was wearing an Avalung and the inflatable balloon. I have wondered if I should include one of those packs in my backcountry gear. This is the kind of thing that should make all backcountry skiers stop and think. A more troubling fact was that this happened on a guided heliskiing trip. There are no gurantees of safety when you step beyond the ropes. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. George McKee is right, I was wearing an avalung as well as using the Float 30 Airbag. I had snow rammed down my throat and couldn’t breath so I put in the avalung before going for the rip cord on the bag. It is hard to curse and swear when there is an avalung in your mouth. I suppose I could have cursed at the top but I really did mistake a fracture in the slab for the edge of the slide and thought I might just make it.

    The “diving” symbol for ok is a habit I picked up in Japan where I have lived and skied for the last 8 years. They use an over-head O to indicate OK.

    • Jeff,
      Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you found this site. A few questions: you are following a set of tracks at the beginning of the video. Were these a guide’s tracks? Were you a client being guided? Was everyone wearing the Float 30 and avalung?

      • We were being guided and those were guide tracks in front of me. We had dug pits, skied similar aspects and done everything right, we just got unlucky on that one slope. It goes to show, snow science is not precise so be prepared if things do go wrong.

        We all had our own gear, though, and I was the only one with a BCA pack and avalung. Two of the other 3 clients did have some sort of airbag (Spowpulse, ABS), as did the guide.

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