The number one risk when you go back country riding is probably the avalanche. Striking with great force and speed, an avalanche is deadly more often than not to the caught up skier or surfer.
So you imagine that manufacturers are trying hard to find solutions to that. The North Face recently demoed two of their new products equipped with the airbag safety system (ABS): the ABS Patrol 24 Pack and ABS Vest. And who best to show it off than pro snowboarder and The North Face athlete Xavier de Le Rue.
The principle behind the ABS system is if your body stays on top of the snow during the avalanche, there is a good chance you wont end up buried which directly increase your chances of survival. Note that we are talking about chance of survival not safe avalanche riding. All the gadgets in the world can’t replace proper training and knowledge of the risks and where and when not to ride.
By inflating the two airbags the body’s buoyancy changes and will tend to naturally go up. If you are familiar with scuba diving, this is pretty much what your BCD does when you inflate it. The system is operated from a lever on the shoulder strap. Pulling it will release nitrogen gas from a can inside the pack and inflate the two bags to about 150 liters in volume.
The second use of the bags is if you do get buried, they will slowly deflate to leave you room for breathing and more time to dig your way out. Of course if you get hit by a rock or a get slammed into a tree, the ABS system wont do anything for you. But sometimes having another card to play in you games is all you need to stay on top of it.