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Everyone Skiing The Back Country Needs The AvaLung

Updated on May 5, 2016

Why Everyone Skiing The Back Country Needs The AvaLung

With easily a dozen skiers, snowmobilers and snowboarder's killed in avalanche's in Colorado, Utah and Alaska in 2014/2015?

Then six more died in avalanche's in the French Alps? (January 2015)

It's long PAST time to talk about Avalanche Safety Gear. When you think of Avalanche Safety Equipment, the first name to come to mind is the Black Diamond Equipment Company. The designer and manufacturer of the AvaLung

Take a close look at the photo. What you are seeing is an example of what is left after an avalanche. Jumbled up snow and not much else. If you ski the backcountry, you need the AvaLung.

It doesn't matter if you snow ski the extremes, snowboard the back country or even ride snowmobiles Black Diamond makes an AvaLung for you. It's a lightweight backpack that will allow you to continue to breathe if trapped in an Avalanche.

Black Diamond Lost Several of Their Own

The loss of several Black Diamond employees spurred the company into motion to design and manufacture a safety device to help save lives. Black Diamonds employees who were themselves, avid outdoors people but were unfortunately trapped in an avalanche and subsequently died.

Studies have proven, that if a person survives the initial trauma of being buried in an avalanche? Then the approximate breathable airtime is about 15 minutes.

Black Diamond Company wanted to know how they could extend that 15 minute time frame for trapped skiers.

Black Diamond Bandit AvaLung Package, Black
Black Diamond Bandit AvaLung Package, Black

The Black Diamond Bandit Package Pack is a really sleek pack with not only the AvaLung, but compact enough to be used for a helicopter, cat or even snow mobile insertion. It's smooth and sleek but roomy enough for your essentials including diagonal ski carry that is secure to use.

Evaluation: No reason to leave home without one. Buy yours today and they will Ship it FREE, right to your door

Black Diamond Revelation AvaLung Backpack, Lava, Medium/Large
Black Diamond Revelation AvaLung Backpack, Lava, Medium/Large

The Black Diamond Revelation Pack is a true mountaineering pack with dual zipper access to the pack as well as a dedicated exterior pocket for your shovel and probe if you need to dig someone out.

Evaluation: This bag incorporates not only the AvaLung safety device, but a Helmet sling and a crampon pouch to round out this superb AvaLung pack and it comes with FREE Shipping right to your door.


Why You Need The AvaLung If You Ski The Backcountry

What Black Diamond found in their research:

When it came to Avalanche Safety Gear design, Black Diamond's designers found that the reason for the 15 minute time frame was that was about all of the air available to someone buried in snow. It's the time it takes for the average person's breath to melt the snow around their face.

Why only 15 minutes of air:

Once that snow is melted by their breath, it then refreezes. When frozen, it blocks the oxygen properties of the snow and reflects the expelled breath back at the person, causing a buildup of CO 2. After roughly 15 minutes, all breathable air is gone and the person dies from asphyxiation.

How to overcome this:

The challenge then was to actually invent something that was not on the market. Something entirely new, from a thought process and design not before considered. Many minds got together to came up with the idea. A device that extends the amount of air for a person buried in the snow to breathe. But where to get the air? Well, we know the snow has air, or the person cannot breathe for the approximately 15 minute time frame. What to do about the Carbon Monoxide (our expelled air)?.

Number (1), to obtain air from the snow and (2), expel the carbon dioxide without depleting the oxygen. That way, time can be extended so that the fresh air supply will stretch much further than the "typical" 15 minutes.

Research and design proved both remarkable and innovative as a life saving device.

Black Diamond Outlaw AvaLung Backpack, Revolution Green, Medium/Large
Black Diamond Outlaw AvaLung Backpack, Revolution Green, Medium/Large

The Black Diamond Revolution pack is not only a life saving AvaLung pack but a tool organizer as well, with a pocket for goggles (fleece lined no less) but an insulated hydration pocket, snowboard carrier and much more.

Evaluation: If you're pressed for space on a helicopter insertion, this is your pack. It's a great compact AvaLung pack with tons of advantages and comes with FREE Shipping as well. Buy yours today


The AvaLung Design

Simple, effective and easy to use

Their very first foray into Avalanche Safety Gear other than shovels and poles, was the completed design of the AvaLung. It's mouthpiece with which to breathe through, is located ion the strap of the backpack. Easy to get to, easy to use. This mouthpiece delivers fresh air and expels the CO2.

Fresh air is created:

A way was found to produce oxygen by pulling it from the snow pack surrounding the person after they have been buried. Obtaining air from the snow pack around the buried adventurer, is accomplished by pulling the air through a bi-valve intake box. This intake box is also located in the shoulder straps of the pack. Any exhaled CO2 is then directed away from your body through an exhaust port.

It's a simple but effective way to provide fresh air while awaiting a rescue dog to find you. Having a rescue beacon helps to speed your rescue immensely. There is no dangerous CO 2 to worry about and only fresh air to breath. The AvaLung unit is available in a complete line of backpacks from Black Diamond Equipment.

Most significantly, the Outlaw AvaLung Pack.

Avalanche Safety Gear 101

I can't ski and wear a big old backpack, I need freedom of movement

For starter's, that is just bravado.

When Black Diamond first introduced their Avalanche Safety gear entrant, many skiers did not want a backpack on their backs. The AvaLung Packs were designed with Black Diamond's "ergoACTIV" suspension. Which means in English, the Avalung allows you all the freedom of movement you want.

So wearing the AvaLung when down hilling or pillowing through trees? You'll feel completely at ease with this pack on your back. Note in the picture to the right, you can see the mouthpiece mounted on the shoulder strap. It is completely movable to whichever side you feel most comfortable.

The AvaLung is Revolutionary in design, for sure. But it is remarkably simple and an effective life saving device. Black Diamond Equipment continues to prove themselves a market leader in design, safety and innovation, regardless of the product they build. Fresh ideas continue to spring from their employees, including from their CEO Peter Metcalf.

Black Diamond is truly a visionary company.

G3 - Genuine Guide Gear AviTECH Shovel - D grip
G3 - Genuine Guide Gear AviTECH Shovel - D grip

Buy and carry a shovel. The life you save may be one of your friends or a complete stranger. Guide Gear's AviTech Shovel is an example of just such a shovel. Collasible to 18" im length, it will fit inside any modern back pack or can be secured to the outside of the pack using the 'D' ring handle.

Evaluation: Buy yours and Get FREE Shipping. The life you save may be a total stranger.

Avalanche Pole Aluminum 9 Ft.
Avalanche Pole Aluminum 9 Ft.

Buy and carry an Avanche probe This particular model is an aluminum probe which is color coded to indicate depth. Once completely folded out, it has a full 9' length. Buy it, carry it in your pack.


Avalanche Safety Gear - Be as safe as you can out there

Talking about safety is one thing, but preparing for it is another thing entirely. I NEVER ski in the back country or avalanche area's without carrying a beacon. It just makes sense to give yourself every advantage in the eventuality the worst happens. 'Beacon's' are one of the best technical innovations ever..... for locating a companion buried in an avalanche and the AvaLung is the Ultimate in safety devices when you need one.

Rothco Jumbo 80MM Carabiner With Web Strap Key Ring, Olive Drab
Rothco Jumbo 80MM Carabiner With Web Strap Key Ring, Olive Drab

Everyone can use and needs Carabiner Rings. Rothco Heavy Duty Rings have a variety of uses, but buy a few and keep them clipped to your backpack. You never know when they will come in handy.


AvaLung Rescue Stories of Lives Saved

Reported in the news

Designing Avalanche Safety Gear was not only time consuming and many, many hours of hard work, but it is also rewarding to hear testimonials from not on the people rescued but the rescuers of people's lives saved because of their design.

( 1 ) Alaska: April of 2000,

A helicopter ski guide was recovered after being buried at a depth of approximately 3 1/2 feet. Upon finally reaching him, he was found breathing through his AvaLung. He explained that he was completely unable to move once he was first buried and became quite anxious. It was then that he became aware of a strange sound and realized that it was caused by him breathing through his AvaLung. He then began to relax and concentrate on his breathing. His time under the snow was approximately 15 minutes.

( 2 ) Aosta, Italy: March 2001, A ski guide relates the following story:

"As we were dropped off, to ski the slopes for a second time, the conditions are perfect. We chose a slightly steeper line this time. Of my six clients four wear the AvaLung (at my suggestion) as do I. My first two clients ski down the slope and stop below me, but as the third client starts down, the entire slope about 650 feet wide and 200 feet in length begins to slide. My first reaction is to ski to the right over some wind packed snow. As I begin to ski, the mouthpiece of my AvaLung is not in my mouth. After jumping off a small cliff, I too am caught in the avalanche as is another of my clients who has stayed with me. As the avalanche comes to a stop, I don't know it then but I am buried by about 2 feet and unable to move. I am lying downhill on my back and the AvaLung mouthpiece is right in front of my mouth. I manage to get it in my mouth and am able to breath. As I wait to be found, I relax some but worry about the others who may be buried. As it turns out, only one other client was buried and he was not wearing an AvaLung and he was unconscious when found.

Luckily, he was brought back to life while on the helicopter ride to Aosta Hospital.

acr 2880 ResQlink Non-Buoyant PLB - Programmed for US Registration
acr 2880 ResQlink Non-Buoyant PLB - Programmed for US Registration

The only way to ski the back country or in avalanche prone ski areas is with a beacon. ACR's PLB (personal locating beacon) is just another example of the fine technology that is available out there and it won't wipe out your wallet. Tempting fate is one thing, but in case something goes wrong? I carry a beacon because I want to be found and so should you. The AvaLung gives you the edge, the beacon allows the rescuers to reach you quicker. Buy one Use It. Your order includes FREE Shipping


More Avalanche Safety Gear Rescue Stories

Testimonials to a life saving design

These final testimonials are from opposite sides of the globe. One from Vancouver, B. C. and the other from Tignes, France. read on...

( 3 ) Vancouver, B. C. February 2002, Story as related by Helicopter pilot:

"The victim (un-named) had just skied a pitch and was resting with the others of a guided group. Hearing a noise, he looked up and saw the slide coming towards him. He put the AvaLung in his mouth at that moment, but before he could react and ski away, he was struck by the avalanche and buried almost instantly. Struggling to stay on the surface he found he could not and was overtaken by the snow. He tried vainly to keep his hands over his mouth but the speed of the slide tore them away. When the slide finally stopped, he a bit of pressure on his chest but was unable to move. Snow was packed in his ears and nose, but the Avalung mouthpiece was safely in his mouth. His first thoughts were "I'm breathing and I will be fine. I'm just going to wait to be dug out." After a bit though, he began to think that possibly everyone in the group was buried and there was no one to dig him out. Finally, he became unconscious. (He believes it is for approximately the last five minutes before he is rescued but isn't sure) As soon as he is dug out, he begins to breathe."

In talking with Dr. Colin Grissom M. D.(the Dr. who conducted all of the test burials during the development of the AvaLung, he says that this is most likely a case of Hypercapnia (breathing too fast due to panic)

The victim and the others in the rescue party attribute their survival to the AvaLung.

( 4 ) Tignes, France, January 2005,

Martin Gulsrud, 24, from Norway, was skiing in an area near Tignes, France when he was caught in an avalanche. He was buried in approximately 8 feet of snow for about 20 minutes. Mr. Gilsrud is an accomplished off-piste (slope) skier and he and his group were following avalanche protocol when they were caught in the slide.

He was carrying an avalanche beacon and wearing an AvaLung by Black Diamond.


The AvaLung

In closing

I started by relating a tragedy that birthed this Avalanche Safety Gear design and brought it full circle to fruition. The AvaLung is significant for several reasons. First, it's simple and innovative and effective design was an industry first. Secondly, as you read from the testimonials, it has proven it saves lives.

It was designed by avid outdoors people who use and test all of their own designs.

As I said, it is remarkably simple. How simple? The AvaLung draws the air necessary to breathe, from a wide area of the snow pack in the front of the avalanche victim. With the AvaLung mouthpiece in the victims mouth, this eliminates their warm breath from melting the snow and causing it to freeze over thus blocking any breathable air.

Secondly, the warm CO2 or Carbon Dioxide polluted air that would normally come out of the victim's mouth is now directed and exhaled into the snow pack behind them. This process then creates those precious and crucial extra minutes of time and air to not only continue breathing, but to allow the rescuers a bit more time to find and dig the victim out.

Simple but effective. If you extreme ski or cross country ski? I recommend this product, hands down, get one. Photo to the right, courtesy of Black Diamond wants you to return from your skiing adventure happy.......and alive.

EVERYONE skiing the back country NEEDS the AvaLung

Thanks for reading today safe and I'll see you on the trail--CampingmanNW

Other Avalanche Safety Gear to consider: - Gear to never be without when skiing the back country

A beacon can save your life or the life of a friend. The shovel and probe can enable you to dig out someone else. The probe can verify how deep they are buried. Everything has a purpose and a use and you should never ski the back country without any of this.

Adventure Medical Kits Travel Series World Travel Kit
Adventure Medical Kits Travel Series World Travel Kit

A first aid kit is essential if you are in the back country. The World Traveler by Adventure Medical is just such a kit. It's perfect for those times when help is a fair amount of time in arriving. You have most everything you need to treat a variety of injuries, but there is still some room in the bag for you to add custom items of your own, such as an epipen or a clotting bandage, etc. Buy yours today and have it Shipped FREE What more could you ask for?


What have your experiences been with Avalanche Safety Gear?

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    • CampingmanNW profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @annharrison85: Glad you enjoyed the lens. Yes.....The AvaLung is probably the most innovative safety tool on the market today. Add a beacon and you have the necessary elements to save your life. Never ski the back country without them. Thanks for your visit today.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens! What an important tool!

    • CampingmanNW profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: Thank you. Yes, the AvaLung is an innovative piece of hardware for any of us who venture on the back slopes anywhere in the world. If even one person survives an avalanche due to this device? the work to design it is paid for in full. An idea born of tragedy but bringing life to those in need for the future and beyond. Thank you again for your visit and for your comments.

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      This is a fantastic lifesaving tool. Congratulations on writing a wonderful lens.


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