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Snowboards and avalanches


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The avalanche awareness courses I've participated in have emphasized the importance of kicking off your skis if caught in an avalanche, as it will make it much easier to 'swim' in an attempt to stay on the surface--but what about snowboards?

It would seem that with a board attached, an avalance victim would be more likely to be buried, and also more likely to suffer twisting injuries caused by the board and body going in different directions.

A friend who was heli-boarding jury-rigged up a piece of webbing connecting the release tabs of his clickers, with the thought that he could grab and yank to release his bindings if he was avalanched. He never had to use it. It does't seem likely that in a slide, you could reliably pull the release mechanism on an intec setup--but maybe you could rig a similar quick release webbing mechanism on that system.

Other than practicing good routefinding and snow assessment and thus not getting caught in a slide in the first place, what other options does a backcountry boarder have? Are there any bindings designed to release in an avalanche? Is this a legitimate concern?

<img src="http://www.keyssonline.com/ncprojects/nz-powder.jpg" alt="" border="0">

Thanks for your input.

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1. avoid them by following rules of good senses

2. put lots of chances on your side:

- train and follow rules

- never ride alone

- all use beacon, shovel, pole and BOTH learn to use them

- use ABS airbag backpacks such as this model ( i use this one its very comfy)

- use avalung breathing device ( undersnow breathing stuff) never tried it cos it implies putting the scuba mouth while you ride!


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Guest AlpentalRider

^^ what nils said...

when you strap a snowboard on, you pretty much accept the risk that your screwed if caught in an avalanche. There are no commercial alpine snowboard bindings that I know of which will release in an avalanche. Maybe someone else might know of one?

You just have to try and outrun it and get out of it's path. If your caught in it, your at it's mercy, and hopefully everything will end up ok.

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Heli operators ban use of leashes partly for this reason.

"getting out" quickly is fairly important generally, especially for novice back-country riders. Specifically: (a) you'll need to be quick out-and-in if you lose speed on a flat; and (b) you may need a rapid exit if caught in a tree well. To me those are both much more likely than making a flying exit in an avalanche, but getting out rapidly there might be helpful too.

Personally I use the Intec stuff, so it's a pull on one or two handles and I'm out of there. All the guides I know use clickers with a rope rigged as shown by my mate below. The theory is similar to my Intec rapid exit.


As fas as avalanches are concerned, as you note we just don't want to go there. Personally I would expect that I'd be trying to ride out of a slide rather than dumping my board, but I hope I never have to find out.

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you may need a rapid exit if caught in a tree well.

Contrary to popular belief it seems not to help in tree-well, if you can release from equipment. From http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/1999/12_99/cadman.htm

In a carefully controlled experiment during the winter of 1998-1999, volunteer Alpine skiers and snowboarders were placed inverted into a packed snow hole that simulated a tree well. None of the 10 volunteers (6 skiers, 4 snowboarders) could rescue themselves. Alpine skiers who were able to remove their skis by using their feet to undo their bindings only fell deeper into the hole. The snowboarders could not unfasten their boards. We found that most ski clothing acts like a funnel when inverted. All of the volunteers complained of snow falling onto their bare torsos, suggesting that hypothermia could be a major complicating factor..

So your only hope in tree-well is that friend is nearby.

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Guest Randy S.

I have releases for my step-ins that run up through my pant legs and come out around the top of my thigh. I stole the idea from some others here. I don't have pictures of it, but you can rig it very easily. You'll need a couple of fastex clips, some 3/4" webbing and something to use as a grab handle. Its easy to get it all at REI. I took my pants to a cobbler and had him cut holes in the thighs and reinforce them with leather. It works great. I don't need to bend down to get out of my bindings. I suppose that if I removed the leash I could easily unclip from the board in an avy. I'm not sure I'd have the presence of mind to do it though. If I did that, I'd definitely rig up a powder leash for my board so I'd have a chance of finding it. If someone really wants, I could take pictures of my release rig and post it. It is awesome when you get to a lift line and don't have to bend down to release. And yes, I've used it in a tree well and it works great.

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I've drilled holes in the toe bales of my Burton plate bindings to accept a bailout strap that I made out of 6mm nylon climbing rope. I connect them to the toe bails with small carabiners that i got from a climbing shop.

This strap can also be mounted to the Catek bindings and Blax plate bindings that I have on my other backcountry boards.

I have done controlled experiments with releasing the bindings on slopes that varied from 15 degrees to 37 degrees. What I found was that with anything over 30 degrees, I stood a good chance of being hit in the head with the board once it released. On a slope like that, you pretty much tumble head over heels once you bend down and yank the toe bale release.

I have not experimented on using this binding release on a split board set-up. The boards that I have rigged this release on have been a Winterstick 159, 162, and 167 Severe Terrain, and a 185 Swallowtail.


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