Thanks to an inflatable backpack, a Whistler snowboarder was lucky enough to walk away from an avalanche he was caught in.
After 29-year-old Australian Tom Oye uploaded a helmet-mounted camera video of himself being swept along by an avalanche in the Brandywine backcountry area (between Squamish and Whistler), his post went viral with over seven million views. His video can be viewed on Facebook.
Oye was wearing a JetForce inflatable backpack, which can cost (depending on the model) between around $1,000 and $2,000.
When a trigger on the shoulder strap is pulled, the backpack can inflate into an airbag (thanks to a high-speed fan). It automatically deflates afterward, leaving a pocket of air in the snow if the user is buried.
However, skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, or anyone else using the backcountry should not rely upon such devices as safety guarantees.
Other safety equipment that North Shore Rescue advise include a transceiver (a transmitter and receiver), probe, and shovel.
During avalanche conditions, NSR warns people that even if they are trained or are traveling with trained friends, they should either stay at home or stay in-bounds.
"Remember, that even a small avalanche can be fatal on the North Shore," NSR's Curtis Jones stated on the NSR website. "Furthermore, if the risks are too high, SAR crews may not be able to reach you in time."
To learn more about avalanches, Avalanche Canada provides avalanche training courses and online tutorials, as well as forecasts and current information about avalanches.