Word is that skiing fresh powder is unlike any other skiing experience. However, a major drawback (understatement) is the vastly increased possibility of getting caught in the wake of an avalanche. Once a skier is trapped beneath a few feet of snow there is no escaping. The best thing they can do is wait it out and hope that the beacon system they’re carrying, if they are carrying one, leads the rescue team to their location before they run out of oxygen.
Well that just ain’t good enough for Xavier de Le Rue, a free rider who found himself caught and trapped in avalanche four years ago. After starring face in the death he pushed North Face to develop an airbag system that in concept increases the riders overall mass and hopefully prevents them from getting trapped beneath mounds of snow.
The Avalanche Air Bag Safety system will be available in a backpack and a vest. Skiers will need to attach a nitrogen tank before setting out and in the event they do get caught in a down pour of snow, they can pull a rip cord located in the shoulder strap that instantly inflates the air bag system. In addition to this new ABS system, North Face is also introducing two new fabrics: Thermoball and Flashdry. Thermoball uses small balls of synthetic fiber to create a light weight warmth which can also repel water. FlashDry on the other hands uses micro-porous particles to wick away water and moisture.
Unfortunately, we won’t see the Avalanche system until sometime late next year, where it will appear in speciality shops. The price of the vest is unknown, but word is that the backpack will cost a painful $900 and an additional $150 for a nitrogen tank and “starter lever.” How much is your life worth?