KEYSTONE, Colo. (CBS4)– With avalanche danger very high in Colorado mountains some ski patrol units are turning to new technology to keep them safe while they venture into the most dangerous terrain.
Some ski patrollers are wearing avalanche backpacks that inflate to keep them at the top of a snow slide instead of getting buried underneath several feet of snow and possibly suffocating.
It’s the newest asset for ski patrollers is being used at many of the mountains in Colorado owned by Vail Resorts.
“We use them as conditions dictate so if we need to do avalanche mitigation anywhere within our terrain we decide that ahead of time based on snowpack and weather conditions,” said Keystone Mountain Snow Safety Supervisor Lloyd Morsett.
Keystone Ski Patrol has a dozen of the backpacks in its arsenal. The Float Backpack is made by Backcountry Access, a company out of Boulder.
“Staying out of a an avalanche is your main job when you’re doing avalanche control work,” Morsett. “Airbags can be beneficial should you find yourself in a situation where you are actually involved in a slide.”
The theory behind the airbags is to keep you on top of an avalanche while the snow is sliding.
Many critics have said it should not be relied on as the only item of survival in those conditions and shouldn’t be the foundation for saving lives in an avalanche.
“If you don’t use the tool correctly and go in it with a specific amount of knowledge and thought process and decision making, having all the tools in the world isn’t going to help you be safe,” said Mosett.
So far Keystone ski patrollers haven’t needed to deploy them but they’re hoping to bring even more air bags on board.