MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Fall Winter 2018

30 MLCM FALL/WINTER 2018 LET IT BLOW As avalanche airbags go electric, more riders are willing to pull the trigger See all our photochromic technologies at: ONE LENS NO MATTER THE WEATHER WHEN THE WEATHER CHANGES, NO NEED TO CHANGE THE LENS! With Reactiv Photochromic by Julbo, discover a unique technologythat will change the way you see things! Thanks to high-performance photochromic treatment, the lens automatically gets lighter or darker to match changing light conditions.The result: perfect vision, whatever the weather! PHOTOCHROMIC C M Y CM MY CY CMY K AP_BtoC_REACTIV_3.6''x9.75''_EN.pdf 1 2017-10-16 1:51 PM “I’ve gone out field testing for 10 years and nearly everyone screws up (the airbag deployment) the first time.” – Gord Rose, Arc'teyx words :: Vince Shuley When the shit hits the proverbial fan, you want every tool available to ensure survival. As such, the avalanche airbag has slowly but surely worked its way onto many a backcountry snowsport manifest over the last decade, earning the distinction as the fourth— albeit optional—critical piece of avalanche safety equipment. Avalanche airbags come in two styles: compressed air and electric fan. While compressed air canisters continue to rule the roost of lightweight backcountry touring, they come with a few drawbacks; they can be a nightmare to travel with (TSA airline rules vary but are generally prohibitive), and pulling the airbag trigger (for most models) requires a refill afterwards at a special service centre that’s probably not located in your ski town. Thus, people avoid pulling the trigger until they feel it’s a matter of life or death. On the flipside, electric fan airbags can be deployed multiple times on a single battery charge. (Note: that doesn’t mean you can safely get caught in several avalanches in a day.) The advantage of multiple deployments is that you are less likely to hesitate when pulling the trigger. With a quick repack, you can also practice with your airbag before heading out into the field. “Training is paramount,” says Gord Rose, senior industrial designer at Arc’teryx and inventor of the Voltair avalanche airbag. “I’ve gone out field testing for 10 years and nearly everyone screws up (the airbag deployment) the first time. It’s like buying a transceiver, getting into an avalanche, and then turning the thing on for the first time to figure out how to use it.” Electric airbag systems are comprised of four main parts: compressor/fan unit, battery, balloon and trigger. When the user pulls the trigger, the compressor or fan motor activates and air is drawn through an intake screen on the pack’s exterior, inflating the balloon in a few short seconds. The Scott Patrol E1 (built around the Alpride E1 airbag system) and the Arc’teryx Voltair both utilize a centrifugal blower, much like a handheld cordless vacuum. Alternatively, the Black Diamond JetForce uses a ducted fan system, where air is moved axially through a cylinder using a propeller much like the propulsion systems found in remote controlled airplanes. Without getting too bogged down in fluid mechanics, both systems can fill a large airbag balloon quickly, provided the fan is powerful enough. One of the biggest factors in the avy airbag purchase decision is cost. Electric airbags are not cheap, ringing in at roughly two to three times the price of compressed air systems. If you’ve just sunk your life savings into a snowmobile, forking out the extra cash for an airbag (electric or otherwise) is a no-brainer, but for the weight conscious ski tourer on a dirtbag budget, the investment can be more difficult to justify. To help you with this conundrum, Mountain Life has rounded up the three heavy hitters in the electric airbag market.