Eugene (KMTR) - Skier Elyse Saugstad survived a Washington avalanche Sunday with an avalanche safety backpack. If you’re looking to buy the so-called “avalanche airbag” or “ski bubble,” you won't find it in any local ski shops. It's a new, expensive device; but there are some lower-budget options available.
Experts say the airbag backpack has only been on the market for a few years, and it's tough to come by in the U.S. The nearest retailer we found with the product in stock is in Seattle. Folks at Berg's Ski Shop say there are some other essential items every back-country skier should keep in their backpack.
First: a metal shovel. Experts say snow gets so heavy and dense, it's like digging through rock, and any other material won't do the job. You also need a probe, to search the snow for your partner if they have gone under. These tools only work if you are on the mountain with a buddy, and that's more important than any gadget. Sven Berg said, "You have to have two people, at least. If you have three, even better. But you need to get a person out there that knows how to use their transceiver, knows how to use their probe, and is willing to have a metal shovel to dig you out when you're in a bind."
If you or someone you're with gets buried out of sight, a transceiver can tell you how far away they are. It's very simple to use, just turn it on and pull a tab to pick up a signal. They run about $239. And all brands have been standardized, so you can find your friend no matter what type of device they have. Just like all those other tools, the transceiver only works if you and your buddy are carrying one. And, the more the merrier; just make sure everyone you're with has the right gear, and knows how to use it.
If you just have to have the "avalanche airbag," the average price is about $1,000.