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Avalanche Safety Device

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I am part of a group of senior mechanical engineering majors at the Univeristy of Maryland College Park who are currentlly enrolled in a senior design class. Our group would like to design an avalanche safety device, and we would appreciate any of your guys input and insight as we begin our project.


We are just staring the design process and have a couple of ideas in mind. Would any of you be willing to fill out a very short survey so we can find what features would be useful for advanced skiers who periodically venture out into the backcountry?

Here's the link to the survey:
http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?p=WEB2245XQG82P6

Thanks guys in advance,

John



post #2 of 23

avy burial

I have been buried twice. If you would like to discuss them with me send a pm and we can talk.

Mark
post #3 of 23
Just saw an article on an avalanche safety device today. (Reading various magazines in a hospital waiting room.) It is an airbag system that the individual wears. When hit by the avalanche it inflates and looks like a set of water wings worn on the back. The article said that out of approximately 70 people in avalanches wearing the device 60 survived. Much better than the 30% - 40% save rate without. I forget what magazine I was reading at the time. The device is made in europe. Biggest problem with it is the airlines won't let you travel with them in your luggage. The pressurized air cannister is considered hazardous.

Just did a Google. Here's the website.

http://www.abssystem.com/
post #4 of 23
James Bond had one of these in "The World Is Not Enough". Worked great in the movie, although probably weighs a ton.



In real life, there's also the avalung.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maddog
I have been buried twice. If you would like to discuss them with me send a pm and we can talk.



Mark


Maddog, I'd definetely be interested in talking to you.



Thanks guys for the feedback thus far. It seems the two most popular products on the market are the avalung and the backpack airbag system. Our group thinks that there is still lots of room for innovation...
post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by stronny
Maddog, I'd definetely be interested in talking to you.



Thanks guys for the feedback thus far. It seems the two most popular products on the market are the avalung and the backpack airbag system. Our group thinks that there is still lots of room for innovation...
I should hope the that most popular device are beacons, shovels, and probes. Then the above mentioned products as secondary items. Good luck with your innovations. I hope you come up with something good.
post #7 of 23
Backcountry skiiers and climbers used to use avalanche cords, but apparently they don't work very well compared to transceivers.

Maybe your airbag could also spray bright-colored dye to try to mark your position. Just a thought....
post #8 of 23
I believe I read that you cannot fly with the airbag device due to the possibility of premature inflation.
post #9 of 23
IMHO more effort should be put into avalanche education. The idea is not to get buried in the first place by making intelligent, informed decisions. All these devises such as avalungs and airbags do is give people a false sense of security. Now the human factor kicks in, I believe people will on a consious and sub consious level take more chances or have a higher acceptable risk level due to the use of kind of these devices. If an avy takes and buries you there is a 90% chance the trauma will kill you anyway.

When avalanche beacons first became widely used by bc skiers, stats say that the frequency of accidents when up considerably. Is this due to more skiers in the bc? ... or did people all of a sudden got braver because now they have a beacon? A false sense of security!!

Education, good travel practices, and intelligent decision making, that's what will do the most to keep you safe in the back country.
post #10 of 23
You make a great point, freeheals. being forced into a tree or rock by tons of snow traveling at a 100 miles an hour or more isn't the best way to test a new device.
But nomatter how educated you are things can happen and if they do I want the best gear I can have.
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferniefreeheels
IMHO more effort should be put into avalanche education. The idea is not to get buried in the first place by making intelligent, informed decisions. All these devises such as avalungs and airbags do is give people a false sense of security. Now the human factor kicks in, I believe people will on a consious and sub consious level take more chances or have a higher acceptable risk level due to the use of kind of these devices. If an avy takes and buries you there is a 90% chance the trauma will kill you anyway.

When avalanche beacons first became widely used by bc skiers, stats say that the frequency of accidents when up considerably. Is this due to more skiers in the bc? ... or did people all of a sudden got braver because now they have a beacon? A false sense of security!!

Education, good travel practices, and intelligent decision making, that's what will do the most to keep you safe in the back country.
So I guess you just rely on education and do not bring avy gear (beacons, probe, shovels) into the BC?
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz
So I guess you just rely on education and do not bring avy gear (beacons, probe, shovels) into the BC?
Ya that's it :
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferniefreeheels
... If an avy takes and buries you there is a 90% chance the trauma will kill you anyway.
This might not be outrageously false if you are differentiating between avalanches (Slabs) and sluffs (point release). In which case, I would suggest that the avi toys available are for surviving sluff burials, not avalanches.

You are right, avalanches are to be avoided. You can also avoid sluffs by never skiing fresh snow on a slope over 30 degrees. What's the fun in that!! It is precisely those slopes likely to produce sluffing that we seek to ski. Sluff management is a paramount bc survival skill, and the avi toys you disdain have a definite place here.
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by guest1
This might not be outrageously false if you are differentiating between avalanches (Slabs) and sluffs (point release). In which case, I would suggest that the avi toys available are for surviving sluff burials, not avalanches.

You are right, avalanches are to be avoided. You can also avoid sluffs by never skiing fresh snow on a slope over 30 degrees. What's the fun in that!! It is precisely those slopes likely to produce sluffing that we seek to ski. Sluff management is a paramount bc survival skill, and the avi toys you disdain have a definite place here.

I think you are missing the point I'm trying to make. I'm not saying devices such as the avalung and avi balloons are bad things. I'm just questioning the human factor. Will these devices give people a false sense of security? Would they be the deciding factor weather you ski that line or not if things were a little sketch? Will these devices that are manufactured with the intent of making bc skiing safer actually elevate the danger level, if users level of acceptable risk goes up because he is wearing such a safety device? Make sense? These are questions everyone has to ask themselves.
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by T-Square
Just saw an article on an avalanche safety device today. (Reading various magazines in a hospital waiting room.) It is an airbag system that the individual wears. When hit by the avalanche it inflates and looks like a set of water wings worn on the back. The article said that out of approximately 70 people in avalanches wearing the device 60 survived. Much better than the 30% - 40% save rate without. I forget what magazine I was reading at the time. The device is made in europe. Biggest problem with it is the airlines won't let you travel with them in your luggage. The pressurized air cannister is considered hazardous.
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I have seen them a couple of times on TV but never on the slopes. The first thing I thought about it was - with the inflatable bags on your back I wonder what would happen if the rip cord got snagged and the thing went off while you were riding a chair lift. Wouldn't it be better if the bags went off in front of you, and it could act like a car air bag in collisions with trees and other people too.
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferniefreeheels
... Will these devices give people a false sense of security? Would they be the deciding factor weather you ski that line or not if things were a little sketch? ...=.
Why a "false sense of security"? Having competent companions, and all the protection you can find, allows you to up the limits of what you can attempt. When alone, I ski more conservative lines than I do when I have with me my "safety devices" -- beacon, competent companions, etc. OF COURSE these devices allow me to do lines I would not otherwise attempt. That's what they are for.
post #17 of 23
Some type of improved tools for analyzing the snowpack could be useful. Something that could be used frequently and quickly. It could conceivably take a number of forms, perhaps some kind of analytical probe, mechanical or electronic, a device for understanding and testing the mechanical characteristics of the snowpack in the field.
post #18 of 23
We deal with the same type of false sense of security in this area. People from Mass and other points south. (Normally called flatlanders.) Get thier hiking boots on and grab a cell phone and a GPS to head out for a "day trip." The cell phone gives them the feeling they can go anywhere. What the hell, if they get in trouble they can just phone for a rescue.

We've had a number of incidents over the past few years of people hiking up Mt. Washington without the proper gear and getting caught when the weather changes. The weather on Mt. Washington can change from pleasant to life threatening in an instant. They then call for help and other people have to risk thier lives trying to save the idiots.

The bottom line is that people need to be educated to be safe. The safety equipment should only be thought of as added security in case something unforeseen happens.
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by guest1
Why a "false sense of security"? Having competent companions, and all the protection you can find, allows you to up the limits of what you can attempt. When alone, I ski more conservative lines than I do when I have with me my "safety devices" -- beacon, competent companions, etc. OF COURSE these devices allow me to do lines I would not otherwise attempt. That's what they are for.

Here is an example: A couple years ago I was mountain biking with a friend . We went down a new trail that had a lot of north shore style tricks built on it. Neither of us had any padding or body armour, just helmets and gloves. We are both quite confident mt bikers. We rode some of the tricks conservativly ie; log rides (that were'nt too high in the air) took smaller jumps etc. Rode within our comfort zone.

A week later this same guy went and rode the same trail all armoured up. He attempted a gap jump and did a header. He broke a couple vertibraes in his neck. He never worked or biked or skiied for over 2 years. He will tell you today that he never had the balls to attempt this jump till he put on the body armour. Would you not call this example of safety gear giving a person a false sense of security?

I was born in and grew up in the mountains. I have played in the back country pretty much my whole life. I've ski toured for at least the last 15 years. And yes I do pack and know how to use, a beacon, shovel and probes and do tour with very competent partners. And yes I do ski slopes over 30 degrees, but there are days I will pass up these tempting slopes as well. I've never been buried or even been involved in a burial (and hope I never will). Had close calls? Oh hell yes, and learned a lot because of them. I am 41yrs old now and the adrenaline junkie part of me has mellowed out somewhat. I still like to push the envelope but my level of acceptable risk is lower than 10 years ago.

Another issue about wearing all this safety gear is weight. My touring day pack weighs in right around 20lbs. How much more weight do you want to carry? I don't imagine a avalung weighs much but I would think the inflatable airbag system would be getting up there.

Just my humble thoughts
post #20 of 23
but say you had fallen even mountain biking within your limits...
wouldnt you have been glad for some body armor?
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferniefreeheels
... He will tell you today that he never had the balls to attempt this jump till he put on the body armour. Would you not call this example of safety gear giving a person a false sense of security?

Another issue about wearing all this safety gear is weight...
I guess if you put armour on an idiot you get an armoured idiot, right? Your main safety device has to be your brain; accessories can augment, but can not substitute for that. I hear you about the weight, though. No way am I going to suffer the poundage of a self-inflating balloon pack.
post #22 of 23

Strange but true

By a sizable number (no matter how you norm the statistics) experienced BC skiers and snowboarders are trapped in more avy's than less their less experienced brethern.

It seems that knowledge and experience add together to cause overconfidence. So, while knowledge and experience are the important elements to snow safety, the crucial element is a rock solid ability to "just say no" when there is any significant potential for a slide.

Knowledge of weather, snow forms, snowpack layers, amalgamation, consolidation, temp stratification, and other pack layer issues, slope issues like angle, obstructions, anchors, and the like all are mandatory for the BC skier.

Devices assist BC skiers involved in an avy - Beacons, poles, probes, shovels, ava-lung, and all the rest. But once you are in an avy its really all a matter of luck. Luck you will miss the trees, rocks, cliffs and all the other dangers.

The only thing of importance is the imovable willingness of you as an experienced individual to say no when the stituation demands.

Good luck out there and stay safe.

Mark
post #23 of 23
I can't answer the question by the original poster but I did get a chance to use the ABS pack and it starts off as well over 10 lbs unladen. Its not light at all. This was the 30liter pack
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