Ric, that is the question that always needs to be asked. I would never want to actually rely on the safety equipment to survive an avalanche, any more than I would want to use my motorcycle helmet to survive a crash. I ski and ride with the same awareness and avoidance of risks, however since I do these things, I use the equipment that gives me the best odds if the awareness and avoidance fails. I'm old enough that my self-preservation skills far outweigh my penchant for risk anyway. All this gear would have been more useful some years ago when that had not kicked in yet. Age and wisdom may be the best safety gear of all
What has come with the evolution of the safety gear is that as each new device comes on the market the skier is being told that they can survive more and more difficult situations. I mean we started with avalanche cords, antique by modern standards, but they left us with some hope that we might be found if the cord floated on the surface. Then came beacons. Early ones were hard to use on a single burial, and not good at all on multiple burials. Then came double and triple antenna beacons, and ones that flag in multiple burial searches. Then the avalung, and now airbags that make us float.
I'll ask you the same question I asked a student the other day. If you were to go backcountry and leave all your safety equipment behind, I mean all of it, no beacon, shovel, probe, avalung, or airbag, would it change your descision making? I'm not suggesting that you do this, but it is good food for thought. I traveled extensively in the backcountry in the "old days" and we stayed safe because we had no alternative. The new gear gives us alternatives and this can and does effect the choices we make. Why be so nit picky about our behavior if we can survive an avalanche anyway?
On another note, a transceiver is the only gear we can use to help save others when things go wrong. Wearing a beacon and carrying a probe and shovel puts me in a position to help find someone, right then, hopefully before it is too late. So I teach my students to think of a beacon more like rescue gear as opposed as safety gear. Which is why each and every one of us that do carry a beacon should now how to use it effectively. We stay safe through our descision making and we stay ready to help others with our rescue gear.