ABS avalanche air bags

    ABS avalanche air bags

    People who ski and snowmobile in the backcountry know they are taking their life in their hands every time they go up on a slope heavy with snow.

    Making things slightly less risky is the ABS system. It is a pair of 75-liter balloons strapped into a backpack that inflate in 2 seconds when you pull a ripcord, enabling you to "swim" out of the avalanche.

    According to the company's website, the inflated balloons act as with a life vest in the water, keeping you buoyant, both when you are in dry powder and heavy, wet snow.

    The company has been around since the 1980s, and users have had a survival rate of more than 90 percent. Their statistics show that all victims carried down by a moving avalanche stayed on top and survived the incident.

    Deaths largely occur when the user is hit by other debris, causing head and neck injuries, or do not pull the cord, according to the website www.abssystem.com.

    The company's website charts 122 avalanche victims swept away while wearing their ABS pack since 1995. Of those, five died and four did not activate the system.

    Reviewers agree this is one of the few ways to remain alive if caught in an avalanche; and it is one of the few ways that victims can take action themselves, rather than relying on beacons and rescuers. However, users are, of course, advised to continue to take all necessary precautions against causing avalanches, to carry a beacon and wear a helmet.

    The packs range from $495-$689. The compressed air cartridges range from $45-$200. It is recommended that you have two: one to test the system and a second to use. They should be replaced about every four years. Find out more at www.abssystem.com.

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