International Snow Science Workshop - Grenoble

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Last week, all the team from Avalanche Academy went to Grenoble for the International Snow Science Workshop. The final day was titled "Guiding in Avalanche Terrain" and we were keen to hear what people had to say.

There was a wide range of speakers, from snow scientists looking at crack propogation, to the Guide Instructors from the French National Mountain Training Centre (ENSA) talking about their efforts to reduce accident levels within the French Guides. Some of the lectures were, to be honest, too technical to have any relevance to the title. However, some of the others had some gems of information. Avalanches are after all a very inexact science, so the bad news is that you just have to study constantly to keep yourself as safe as possible.

In addition to the lectures, there were a large number of trade stands. All the big players were there, including Ortovox, Black Diamond, BCA etc. Looking around the stands there were a few interesting developments to see:

BCA Tracker 3 beacon. This has been in development for a while, but will finally go on sale this winter. It's around 25% lighter (and smaller) than the Tracker 2, and it has a "mark" function. These are important steps forward as personally I have never liked the Trackers, mostly due to these two reasons. However, that seems to be where the good news ends. The Tracker3 uses the same processor as the Tracker2, which is not great in the Pinpoint search. It also just has the LED direction indicators, instead of a floating arrow, so unless you are facing towards the victim you won't get a direction reading. I think BCA could have done a better job on this new beacon.

Black Diamond Jetforce Airbag. After many years of people re-inventing the wheel on airbags, and constantly coming up with very similar products, BD have come up with something new. The Jetforce airbag does not have a compressed gas cannister to fill the bag. It uses a fan, with a lithium ion battery ! Upon initiation the fan fills the airbag within a few seconds (much the same speed as a standard airbag). The weight is, yup, around the same as every other airbag ! At just over 3kg BD have unfortunately not come in any lighter than any other airbag. However, the battery allows multiple deployments without re-charging, charging from a socket at home, and no issues when flying (which is an improvement). For a video demonstrating how the bag works, just click on the link below.

As the snow is now falling around the Alps, and some of the higher resorts are already opening, here's looking forward to an enjoyable and safe season.

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