Most of us on gear.com are more into self-propelled outdoor adventure than motorized outdoor pursuits. You know, backcountry skiing, road biking, mountain biking, trail running, etc, instead of motocross and snowmobiles. But I have to say — I have a lot of respect for snowmobilers and am even considering picking one up myself. However, I have a bad impression that most snowmobilers do NOT respect avalanches like they should until they see it first hand. A good friend of mine lost his buddy while snowmobiling in Idaho. Saddest story…just highmarking, not thinking anything of it, and released a slide.
It seems if you are motorized, it’s easy to just blaze out into the backcountry and quickly get in over your head in avalanche terrain. Whereas with backcountry skiing, you are going slower and don’t have the hubris to think, “Hey, if I see an avalanche I’ll just punch the throttle and out-run it!” Instead you realize your vulnerability a bit more and (I hope) have taken classes and carry the right gear.
So against that backdrop, I am thrilled that KLIM (a snowmobile gear company) now has the rights to distribute the ABS avalanche pack in the United States.
I first heard about the ABS pack from Bruce Tremper (an expert avalanche forecaster) when I was taking an avalanche class from Exum Mountain Guides in Salt Lake. This was several years ago, and Bruce mentioned this very interesting new backpack that was available in Europe. The pack has CO2 cartridges, and if you found yourself caught in a slide you just pull a cord and it inflates a large airbag. That effectively makes you a larger, lightweight object, so you get sifted to the top of the debris as it slides. It’s just like when you shake a bag of potato chips and the bigger ones settle to the top. Here is how KLIM describes the pack:
“With the ABS avalanche airbag, you have 170 liters (6.0 cu ft) of additional volume within seconds that can prevent you from dropping back into the flowing masses of snow and/or can reduce the depth of burial. This separation process in which items having a larger volume float to the top is called the “Inverse Particles Principle”. Cold dry powder snow has a very low density but a large volume. A person on the other hand has a high density but less volume. In order to be able to float on the snow’s surface and to avoid sinking, a person needs an additional volume of approximately 1.5 times of the persons total weight, which the ABS Avalanche Pack System provides.”
The ABS Pack also boasts a 98% survival rate. That’s almost unbelievable, given the lower average survival expectancy of people who happen to get caught in avalanches.
Now, it isn’t all rosy — the pack retails at almost $1,000. Though that isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, I will have to see it personally before I make up my mind.
And you’ll get a chance to do just that, if you live in Salt Lake City. We will have one of the packs with us at the OSH Theater on the University of Utah campus (the building just south of the Union bldg), at 6:30pm on Friday October 3rd. This is immediately before the Poor Boyz Production ski movie premiere at the theater, so please stop by the OSH at 6:30 to take a look, and stick around for the ski movie.
FOR MORE INFO: http://www.klimusa.com