Now a very popular sight in the backcountry in winter, airbags have become an accepted and almost essential item of avalanche safety gear. There are several different systems on the market from several different brands.
Although the way the different systems function may differ, they all work around the same principle of inverse segregation; the idea that bigger objects will end up closer to the surface. Airbags can also help protect the head and neck from trauma, a common problem in areas with trees and rocks. It’s wrong to suggest that airbags somehow replace the probe, shovel, transceiver combo that all backcountry skiers and snowboarders should carry and be comfortable using. They also don’t replace experience and sound judgement. However, they are without doubt a useful addition to the freerider’s avalanche safety kit. Here are few examples of avalanche airbags on the market this winter.