Astounding You Tube Video Footage Link: Skiing in the mountains gets safer!
The chances of being dug up alive by your friends in a avalanche are actually not all that good. In a study by the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, 53% of people completely buried by avalanches did not survive, while only 4% of those who weren’t buried died. Your best bet is to stay on the surface, and an air bag provides a significantly better chance of that happening. Documented accidents show a 97% survival rate of avalanche victims with an ABS airbag.
HOW THEY WORK - If the airbag wearer gets caught in an avalanche, they pull a trigger on the backpack’s shoulder strap and a compressed gas cylinder inflates a balloon. Basically avalanche air bags rely on the principle of inverse segregation. If you shake a bag full of sand and pebbles, the pebbles will rise to the surface as they have more volume than the sand grains. This would explain why the backpack airbags have such a large air bag when the are activated. The air bag is also meant to protect the head from receiving deadly impact. Like any in new innovation, testing and research reveals some design flaws. It has been found that the two chamber design increases your chances of survival. A second air chamber allows one bag to be punctured and the bag to remain inflated. The wrap around bag may protect the head, but cut down on peripheral vision needed to help the disaster victims escape. Even though this increases survival chances, there is a fear that this may push more thrill seekers to chance the more dangerous areas thinking they will survive.
Also read: Air bags are not just for cars any more!
Another video to watch: Riding out the avalanche.