Winter 2018 Avalanche Safety Products Revealed at Outdoors Show
New Avalanche Safety Products for Winter 2018 revealed at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Tradeshow
Each winter, new avalanche safety products are revealed at a tradeshow that most sledders will have never even heard of. The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market is a huge tradeshow specifically for retailers and media involved in the outdoor industry, and it is off-limits to public consumers.
“Outdoor industry” in this case refers to mostly human powered recreation and clothing. However, each year there are innovative new avalanche safety products revealed that will end up in the hands of mountain sledders the following season—products that could very well be used to save the life of a fellow sledder. So it’s worth checking out the show to see what’s new.
This year, the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market took place January 9-12 in Salt Lake City Utah. Here are some of the highlights from the show!
Mammut showed two brand-new transceivers (aka beacons) called the Barryvox and Barryvox S to replace the Element and Pulse respectively. We got to play with the new beacons and at first glance they seem like a great improvement on an already very popular transceiver.
We were told that they offer a much faster processor than the Element and Pulse, both have a 70m range (significantly longer than any other digital beacon), as well as key upgrades which make them much easier to use while helping to eliminate the issue of signal overlap. They also offer a large screen which is backlit and works with polarized glasses or goggles.
What we really liked is the on-screen display which makes them even easier to use that their predecessors. When you need to search to find a signal it indicates that, when you need to move fast there is a picture of a guy running, as you get closer a picture of someone searching close to the ground, and when you are on top of the burial it provides a visual representation of best probing practices. All of this makes for an exciting product.
Mammut also had a new very lightweight compact shovel which had parts of the blade cut out. A great option for those with not a lot of pack space or those who want the lightest option available.
For next winter Ortovox has a lot on offer! Their 2018 lineup starts with a new airbag system and all-new probes and shovels. The shovels have been redesigned to better fit into packs and the probes feature some really bright paint which highlights significant depth markings. We love the bright colour markings on the probe!
On the airbag front, Ortovox introduced a new airbag system to North America. It looks really similar to the current Snowpulse 3.0 airbag system (used in Highmark, Mammut and Dakine airbags) and the cylinder looks identical. We really like the current 3.0 Snowpulse system so there seems little to dislike about the Ortovox system. That being said we did not see any sled specific packs and the colours leave a lot to be desired but the pack internals looks solid.
Arc’Teryx is a Canadian company mostly known for very high-end outdoor gear, however they did jump into the airbag game in Winter 2017. For Winter 2018, their product remains unchanged. At $1800 CAD and ski-specific features, this pack will not be a hot ticket item in the sled world but there are some cool features. Check out how they have managed the leg loop situation; all manufactures should build something this easy!
Their packs are a battery operated system and 100% waterproof. Arc’Teryx airbags are worth a look, especially if you are wealthy and live on the coast where you have to deal with moist snow and rain on a regular basis.
Arva is not a mainstream brand but they had a significant line of avalanche safety products showing at OR, including three models of transceiver. Their top end beacon has a cool feature where the third antenna actually folds out, making it substantially longer than any other third antenna of any other beacon on the market. What does this mean? In theory this should offer better signal accuracy, especially with deep burials or oddly positioned transmitting beacons. We haven’t played with these in the field but the concept is intriging.
On the airbag front they have a wide range of packs, again aimed towards the ski market. All of their airbags use a non-refillable cylinder (which looks identical to ABS) and a twin chamber airbag which looks like a single chamber airbag but has material between the two sides. This is a great idea and offers an added level of safety. We don’t love the idea of non-refillable cylinders—especially with brands that are not widely available—but perhaps down the road if they start producing packs for the sledder market and making they widely available, it might change our tune.
For Winter 2018, BCA has a brand new airbag system which uses a considerably smaller cylinder than they currently have and we think it looks pretty cool. The airbag cylinder hook up is very similar to what currently exists, but the venturi has been completely redesigned which allows them to use a smaller cylinder. This is great news as it takes up less space in the airbag itself and shaves valuable weight. We would of liked to see a simpler system for hooking up the cylinder inline with other manufacturers but we are excited about the smaller cylinder.
The bad news is that this airbag system will only be available on the new speed series, not on the current offering of packs for the sled market. We were told that would be coming for Winter 2019. Apparently there is a new Mtn Pro vest coming out next season but this being a show not catered to the sled market they didn’t have one there to show us. Hopefully we get to see a sample in the coming months.
Pieps / Black Diamond
The BD Jetforce line remains unchanged as does the Pieps airbags. Why did I put these two together? Black Diamond owns Pieps. This should not matter except that BD does support some anti-snowmobiling groups in the US, maybe something to take into consideration when you make your next purchase.
Getting out of land-use issues and moving back to avalanche safety, the Pieps line remains unchanged. They still have the Pro, the Sport, and the Micro beacon lineup and will offer the same competitive pricing. They did have a new shovel which looked less than convincing! Check out this handle… really?
Being a sled-only brand Highmark did not have a booth at the show, however we did run into one of the designers who had an early prototype of a new impact airbag vest called the “Charger”. We hope to have a full review in the near future of this product as it is very unique from other vests on the market.
In talking with the designer, the goal was to produce a vest which provided complete chest protection and eliminate zippers which tend to freeze in ice and snow. Apparently the vest will be available in two sizes—which is great news for women, kids, and smaller folks who want an impact protection vest with an airbag. We are keen to check this product out down the road as well as the all-new Highmark Pro.
Once the leader in airbags and really the company that brought airbags to market, ABS was noticeably missing from this event. As a ski-focussed company they have attended this event numerous times in the past and last season displayed a baffled airbag. It is the understanding of Mountain Sledder that they have been difficult to contact this season and no new product was shipped. How to interpret that is up to you.
Other stuff I saw at the show
The RAD glacier crevasse system should be a must have for any sledders who plans to head up into glacier terrain. There was a crevasse fatality last year and there will undoubtly be more. If you plan to ride on glaciers, then it would be a good idea to have at least two of these kits in your group and take the time to learn how to use them. We love this well bundled and easy to use kit. Plus it comes with 30m of rope which could be handy for sled retrieval in a pinch.
Check out the “Shark Shovel”, it even comes with its own carrying bag! Apparently the idea is that it chops the snow better. We would love to test it out—but—with a round shaft (all new decent shovels use oval shafts for strength), no “hoe” mode and the fact that it would be a pain to carry make us less than convinced this is a good idea.
A monster truck! With no one to be seen anywhere near the booth and located next to hippie clothing, flip flops and an energy bar company, this was way, way out of place. I wonder if the owners pulled in and then just decided to abandon the show once they realized they were at the completely wrong venue? Mountain Sledder thought it was pretty rad!
One badass green machine! This booth sold foldable sunglasses for $200. I couldn’t make the connection but hey, I guess it gets people into the booth.
Bourbon and bacon brownie triangles!! For real!!
This show makes every sled show I have ever been to look bushleague. Triple level booths, free beer with beer coozies starting at 4, models, music, super cheap shoes and other randoms, and after-parties make this event one that I would like to attend every year.