By Amy Kraft
Posting in Design
American outdoor outfitter The North Face and German manufacturer ABS collaborate on the first-ever avalanche airbag system for backcountry skiers.
Thrill-seekers choose backcountry and sidecountry skiing as winter sport, but rugged climbs and steep slopes in uncharted territory can be dangerous without the right gear. The North Face offers a life-saving tool packed into a vest.
The Powder Guide ABS vest is a nitrogen-based avalanche airbag system that the American outdoor apparel company designed with German manufacturer ABS. When deployed, the vest's two airbags help keep you at the surface when you're in danger of being buried in tumbling snow. The bags also act as buffers, protecting your head, neck and back from trees or large rocks if you're swept off your feet.
The vest has eight front pockets to fit all of your gear, and it's big enough to wear over your ski jacket -- just in case you want to turn an Alpine vacation into a real adventure.
The Powder Guide ABS vest can be purchased in partner sporting goods stores, official The North Face locations throughout the U.S. and Canada or through the company's website. $1,199.
Photo: The North Face
Oct 1, 2012
Some commenters here seem to think that anyone who decides to go outdoors onto snow is insanely suicidal. Not everyone who puts on a pair of skis wants to attempt the kind of stunts that we see on TV; they just want to venture out into the pure, white, crisp, incomprehensible beauty that is the mountains in winter. And while there are organizations that attempt to predict the probability of avalanches, sometimes snow will defy the odds, breaking loose in one spot when the whole area should be safe. I'd compare the avalanche floatation vest to a bicycle helmet, in that it provides some partial protection against both my own mistakes and the bad luck of being in the same space as mindless menace from avalanche on the one hand, or drivers on the other. At 60, I've given up on backcountry skiing, not because I'm too old or the sport's too risky, but because I never got out enough to get good at it. I'd just get to where I could link a few turns, and then the rock climbing areas would warm up enough to be fun again, and I'd put the skis away. I've been a mountain rescue volunteer for over 30 years, and most of the people we've packed out of the mountains were not climbers or backcountry skiers, but folks who were just sightseeing a bit & stepped (or drove!) over the wrong edge. While outdoor exercise carries a little risk, sitting on the couch with a beer in one hand and the TV remote in the other carries considerably more. Take me outside, please.
I have been living in Italy for the past 25 years and a mountain guide for 10 years and have seen a lot of people doing reasonable things in the mountains, that suddenly went bad. Something that would protect your neck and head would certainly help. A close friend was killed, just tumbling down a completely grassy slope when he tripped on an exposed root. Unfortunately many stupid people will probably think that this device makes them bullet proof. I have a small book of Latin sayings, translated into Italian. " In love, destiny usually forgives you two errors - in war, destiny usually forgives one error - in the mountains your first error is likely to be your last error." So "heads up" and be careful, even if you have a flak vest. Avalanches are best avoided. Don't be confused by the terms "objective" and "route", the objective is not a geographic point. The objective is to return, route is a secondary consideration. Best regards.
Good luck. Anyone venturing into avalanche country should know that even if wearing this expensive vest over your ski jacket, you still get no guarantees. Huge risks and the odds in an avalanche are never good. I hope it doesn't give people a false sense of security, 'cause the only real security is to stay out of avalanche prone areas.
These things have to be a help. They have been around for years, not sure how many lives have been saved wearing them. For those idiots who dare to ski the back country because they need an adrenalin rush just remember that being in the front of an avalanche is like being in front of the shock wave from several tons of explosives going off. That's why you see trees being ripped out of the ground and blown away at the front of a large event. You play "bet your life" when you do that. Those who climb Everest are doing that too and put the lives of those who try to come and rescue them at severe risk. I say "let em rot" on the hill. No sympathy whatsoever.
you come back from, is a good mountain climb. This should be required apparel for anyone considered to be suicidal by their shrink and/or spouse.