What’s in your backpack?

Just a few days ago, while gazing over at the destruction from the recent avalanche in Bear Pits at Crystal Mountain, a fellow patroller and I discussed the merits of the

Backcountry Access Float30

avalanche floatation backpacks. Essentially these contraptions are designed to keep an avalanche victim on the surface if caught in a slide with large balloons that inflate with the pull of a string, much like a PFD would do in the water.

A few patrollers have tested BCA’s Float 30 airbag, wearing it on avalanche control days. The system fits inside a backpack with room for shovel, probe and other equipment. It adds a bit of weight and bulk to an already heavy pack loaded with explosives. But as you’ll see in the video below, that extra 8 lbs just might save your life.

Check out this video below of a skier in Alaska getting caught in an avalanche and deploying the unit, which keeps him on top. I find this video a little horrifying, especially the moment when the slab starts to break up and the skier hesitates. I can only imagine what’s going through his mind. Oh no. What do I do now? But surprisingly, through it all, the guy never screams or says a word–the audio only picks up the sound of the snow and air moving across the mic. I’d say this guy is one lucky dude.



Raw Footage – edit to follow from Jeff Wyshynski on Vimeo.

3 thoughts on “What’s in your backpack?

  1. Nick,
    Great question. The answer is no. Northway is closed from inbounds, due to concerns about avalanche hazard, etc. The only way to access northway would be for those hiking up from the bottom. Hope that answers your question!


  2. MM

    Neat concept. As I’m sure you know most avalanche fatalities in the NW are caused by trauma, because most of our easy access to bc is treeline or below. Not to mention people have a false sense of security skiing trees during considerable danger and higher. Fourteen test’s were run with airbag units where the tester (150lbs dummy) was in the lower 1/3 of the start zone when a avalanche was initiated. The tester was buried full depth. Test’s also show these units are not effective when the tester was pushed into a terrain trap.
    Your best tool is practicing safe practices. Take good observations and don’t ignore red flags, no matter how many times you have been on that bc slope. Remember tools like airbags, beacons, shovels, and probes are good to have but if you find yourself deploying them it,s probably too late. You have already made a lot of mistakes to be in the situation your in. Keep in mind the guides in the video have a rotor to evac in the event of an injury. What do you have in the bc?


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