Airbags save lives. This is generally true in automobiles, but airbags could be making the way from the car to the slopes. Last winter we noted that Backcountry Access had developed an avalanche kit that included an airbag, and now North Face has a new Avalanche Airbag Safety System (ABS) as well.
According to reports somewhere between 20 and 30 people have lost their lives in avalanches every year since the early 1990s, and while this may seem a small number compared to other accidents, the ABS system could help further reduce those numbers.
The system includes two small inflatable bags, which will the pull of a string can expand with a little help from some nitrogen. The bags could help a hiker, skier or snowboarder stay close to the top of a snow pileup in an avalanche, and by minimizing the depth of a burial – or even avoiding – the chances of survival are increased.
With this system North Face is also introducing it with two new fabrics: Thermoball and Flashdry. Thermoball uses small balls of synthetic fiber to create a light weight warmth which can also repel water, while FlashDry uses micro-porous particles to wick away water and moisture.
The ABS pack is actually reusable as well, although we think that surviving an avalanche would be enough to keep someone from going out on the slopes again!