Avalanche safety technology has taken some interesting turns over the years. The avalanche airbag has gone wireless and wearable and the smartphone has managed to morph into an avalanche transceiver. But the latest avalanche safety device really brings some flash. Using pyrotechnics, the Resero XV system blows snowboard binding straps clean off at the pull of a wearable trigger, freeing the rider to more effectively rise to the top of the rushing snow.
Founded in 2013, German company Avalanche Float Solutions introduced two outdoor safety products at last week's ISPO Munich show. The one we're most intrigued by is the Resero XV, a wireless system that frees snowboarder from snowboard to help him or her get on top of the avalanching snow, rather than being pulled down into it.
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Avalanche Float Solutions explains that in an avalanche, "anchor effect" can bury the snowboard with so much snow it'll pull the rider down with the equivalent of up to 2 or 3 tons of downward force. When you're strapped into the snowboard, there's no way of effectively freeing yourself from the "anchor," increasing the chances that you'll become buried below the surface and suffocate.
The Resero XV system pairs a wireless transmitter, worn on the jacket or backpack, with a receiver/activator unit attached to the snowboard. Should the rider start sliding in an avalanche, he or she can quickly pull the activation handle on the transmitter to automatically pop the bindings free with the integrated pyrotechnic elements.
Avalanche airbags rely on an activation handle similar to the one on the Resero XV, and Avalanche Float Solutions has teamed up with German avalanche airbag specialist ABS to make the Resero XV compatible with the P.Ride wireless airbag system. The first pull of the Resero XV handle wirelessly activates the airbag. If that doesn't work to get the rider to the top of the snow, a second pull pops the bindings and cuts the anchor loose.
One question we have with the design of the Resero XV system is whether someone caught in an avalanche will have the time, awareness and physical capacity to pull the handle twice. If the rider is already struggling to stay afloat, even with the ABS airbag deployed, it seems likely he or she might not be able to give it a second pull.
The reason that the ABS P.Ride airbag system includes the remote activation hardware that Avalanche Float Solutions uses to make the Resero XV wirelessly compatible is so that another P.Ride user can activate the airbag, helping prevent a scenario in which the victim does not activate his or her own airbag.
When it introduced P.Ride last winter, ABS cited a statistic that 20 percent of airbags are not properly activated in an avalanche, largely because the victim doesn't pull the handle. That might be because he or she is physically unable to grab it during the tumultuous event, doesn't recognize the severity of the avalanche until it's too late, or otherwise just doesn't pull it in time. By including the wireless activation hardware, ABS hopes to cut this statistic down.
With that in mind, it seems like the Resero XV should blow both the binding hardware and airbag with one pull, providing maximum burial prevention with the least amount of effort. Perhaps that's something that will evolve during the XV's ongoing development.
AFS says the Resero XV is designed to be unobtrusive in terms of your natural riding, weighing around 11 oz (300 g) in its current form. It works with strap bindings but not rarer step-in or alpine styles. The hardware is designed to work in temperatures down to -22° F (-30° C) and is also built to hold strong through the moisture and vibration inherent in snowboarding.
AFS does not have an estimated launch timeframe but estimates pricing at €400 (approx. US$420). It is working with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in adapting the system to skis and is also looking at ways to make the system compatible with mechanical airbags that lack the P.Ride's wireless activation hardware. The company is also considering rolling in the emergency alert suite of its second product, the Resero Whistle.
Professional snowboarder and Avalanche Float Solutions co-founder Xavier De La Rue with the Resero Whistle
The Whistle is a straightforward emergency communications device that takes on the same wearable, pull-handle form as the XV. The device pairs with an accompanying app and uses both GSM and its own LoRaWAN low power wide area network to get a victim's location and medical information out to rescuers.
It uses both GPS and RECCO to help rescuers locate the victim. The Whistle has a much broader range of uses than the avalanche-specific XV and could be a critical tool for many different types of wilderness emergencies, competing with existing communications tools like the inReach Explorer from DeLorme (now owned by Garmin).
AFS intends to get the Resero Whistle out starting next winter (Northern Hemisphere), first to mountain professionals, then to the public. Estimated pricing is €149 (about $160) for the device and one year of service, with a €30 annual service fee following the first year.
AFS was co-founded by Xavier De La Rue, a professional big-mountain snowboarder-turned-tech entrepreneur who credits ABS avalanche airbag technology with having actively saved his life. We've seen another of De La Rue's snowboarding-inspired tech efforts in the HEXO+ drone.
The first video clip below shows an illustration of how the Resero XV works to keep snowboarders afloat and also includes a quick shot of the pyrotechnic modules firing off. The second clip provides more information about the Resero Whistle. Both products got some love at ISPO, where the XV earned itself an ISPO Award and the Whistle was voted a finalist for the BrandNew Award.
Source: Avalanche Float Solutions