Avalanches have always been a hazard in the backcountry, and our response to sliding snow has constantly evolved. But the most recent life-saving tool, the avalanche airbag, might be older than you think. The first airbag was introduced in 1985 by ABS founder Peter Aschauer. Backcountry first covered the technology in January 1997, Issue 10. “If you play in the den of the avalanche dragon–skiing the steep and the deep–you should carry rescue equipment that will help you survive,” Dale Atkins wrote.
Jump forward 15 years, and the technology began to really take off when Backcountry Access, Mammut and Mystery Ranch all joined Snowpulse and ABS in making airbags. In January 2012 (Issue 84), Technical Editor Lance Riek investigated years of airbag research. “Based on these numbers, wearing an airbag pack in Europe reduces your chance of dying by four times,” Riek wrote. “Balloon packs are not a magic bullet,” Canadian Avalanche Association consultant Pascal Haegeli said in the same story. “They are just a last resort when things go wrong.”
Since 2012, the number of airbags on the market has blown up, and there are now around two-dozen options available. For airbag review, and our Accessory Guide featuring beacon, shovel and probe reviews, check out the January 2014 issue.
We’re working toward publishing our 100th issue and celebrating 20 years of Backcountry Magazine. Can you believe it? Well, since we all can’t put our beers together with celebratory cheer, we’ve unearthed early editions of the mag, dug through them and pulled stories, photos, quotes, gear relics and more for your enjoyment. —The Editors