Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.
Ask anyone what their favorite position is, and they’re sure to say “on top” … at least when it comes to an avalanche.
“Airbags continue to be the Cinderella category of snow safety,” said Bruce Edgerly, vice president global sales and marketing of Backcountry Access, which took a leading role in popularizing airbag packs in North America.
Now, innovators are writing the next chapter of airbags with new technologies.
Scott returns to Winter Market, presenting the all-new Alpride system, a partnership with the Swiss brand of the same name. Based on the technology found in inflatable life vests, the system promises high durability without extra bulk. It employs two separate, but small canisters — one of CO2 to inflate, and the other of Argon to accelerate that inflation. The new line of polyester Air Mnt and Air Free packs (MSRP $850; 30L) range in size from 22-40 liters, maxing out at 6.2 pounds, including the 2.6-pound airbag system.
Versatility is the name of the game for The North Face and Black Diamond when it comes to the winter safety arena. TNF’s Modulator ABS (MSRP $1,000) makes purchasing an avalanche air bag more accessible by not relegating the system to a single pack. As a universal ABS system, it can be attached to practically any pack on the market. Black Diamond introduces the AvaLung Element (MSRP $100), a streamlined, modular unit that can attach to any AvaLung-ready pack, including its new Dawn Patrol 15L, 25L and 32L (MSRP $160; 25L) options.
Elsewhere in airbags, Mammut extends its line of Ride Protection Airbag packs with the 28L short back length (MSRP $900 with the airbag), designed specifically for women and smaller men. Weight watching backcountry enthusiasts will appreciate Deuter’s OnTop Lite ABS 26 (MSRP $1,099) for its close-fitting padded back and weight-shaving 3D Air Mesh fabric. While Backcountry Access hasn’t updated its airbag’s mechanical features, it has upped the comfort level while lowering the price. The BCA Float 22 and 32 offer a more ergonomic fit by better forming to the user’s back and shoulders. The Float 8 (MSRP $500 with the air bag) is designed to fit the essentials and nothing more.
Park rats and tree skiers will welcome the bevy of body vests coming to market for winter 2015-16. Promising bonus protection for the spine and ribs, check out BCA’s Float Mountain Pro Vest , Arva Snow Safety Equipment’s signature protection collection from Xavier de la Rue and the ABS Vest (MSRP $1,379) from The North Face. Meanwhile, Marker’s Body Vest OTIS (MSRP $229), short for Orthopedic Technology Inside, boasts its Multi-Impact Adaptive Polymer system, where the lightweight nitryl rubber padding material claims to be 28-percent better than EPS at absorbing and dissipating the forces in a crash.
Black Diamond and Arva aim to make packing safer and less bulky by condensing their tools. BD’s Snow Saw Pro (MSRP $80) folds into itself to prevent a shredded pack with the bonus ability to attach to most BD adjustable poles for added reach. Arva’s Compact series of avalanche probes features two additional section breaks, allowing its 240-centimenter probe to compact down to 33-centimeter segments, shorter than the 40-centimeter industry standard. In addition, Arva’s beginner-level Evo 4 beacon maintains the simple interface of earlier generations — three antennas, 40-meter bandwidth and multi-burial indicator — adding in a true marking function that can suppress more than one signal at a time in a worst-case scenario with multiple victims.
The ever-present backstory to backcountry bliss rightfully remains education. Partnerships between brands and AAIRE continue to crop up, as do new initiatives like Project Zero, which aims to reduce and eventually eliminate avalanche deaths in North America. “Education is what saves peoples’ lives,” said Ryan Guess, ski category director for Black Diamond. “It’s not these pieces of equipment that we build. They can solve all these problems and help our users, but in all reality they’re one very small part of that decision process. Education is the biggest part of [snow safety].”