We sat down with Avalanche Safety Solutions’ Tanya White to talk about what snowmobilers should be most concerned about when buying an avalanche airbag.
We wanted to know what kind of expert advice White and the crew at A.S.S. dished out to customers when advised them on fit. Below are their Top 5 Tips on Fitting Avalanche Airbags so that your can be a much more informed shopper when picking out your avalanche airbag.
1. Get the right back length.
“If it’s touching your butt cheeks – it’s too long.”
As a rule, snowmobile avalanche airbags are typically shorter than skiing avalanche airbags because snowmobilers are sitting on their sleds instead of standing up to ski tour/ski. Says White; “if it’s touching your butt cheeks – it’s too long.”
This may help you with your pack choice as most packs are only available in one size. If the pack you’re looking at is too long, you’ll want to look at a different model.
2. Get the right front length.
Generally speaking, this only applies to vests, but is really specific to snowmobilers. “When you sit on your sled, you don’t want the stiff front of the vest digging into your legs,” advises White. “We see this when people buy a L/XL instead of a S/M.”
3. Get the right strap length.
“We encourage people to bring in all their stuff from their trucks and pack up the avalanche airbag they’re looking at,” says White. “We’d rather make sure everything fit and that the fit works with a fully packed airbag. After it’s full, we cinch everything down and have a look at the shoulder straps. If they can fit more than three fingers under the strap above the shoulder, it’s too big.”
An airbag that’s too big risks not being able to do its job. If it’s too big and loose, the airbag could fly off when deployed and agitated by moving snow.
4. Consider the Big Boys
Avalanche Safety Solutions claims to be able to find a pack to fit sledders of any size, but the right avalanche airbag might not be what they originally sought out.
“Fitting a fellah with a round belly isn’t a challenge, but we usually advise them away from the Tek-Vest-style avalanche airbags, like the Charger X or the BCA Mountain Pro,”
“Fitting a fellah with a round belly isn’t a challenge, but we usually advise them away from the Tek-Vest-style avalanche airbags, like the Charger X or the BCA Mountain Pro,” divulges White. “Once it’s on, we find that the strap usually gets snugged under the belly and the vest rests on top of the belly – it’s not comfortable for the wearer and we try to encourage these guys to look at a pack-style avalanche airbag instead of the vest.”
5. When Small is Too Small
How awesome is it to recreate with your kids in the backcountry?! However, it’s clutch to make sure that their gear fits and they are comfortable using it. And if they’re not, it’s okay to hold off another season.
“We do get some pretty stoked dads in here looking to outfit their kids with avalanche airbags and we have no problem telling them that the airbag they’re looking at is too big for their kid. Once we explain that the airbag is just going to fly off them if they even manage to compose themselves to pull the trigger, most are pretty receptive to holding off for a bit.”
White let us know that there isn’t a suggestion from any of the manufacturers about weight/height minimums for using the pack, but it’s usually a pretty easy call and if you think your kid might be too small, they probably are.
Curious about what Highmark Airbag would be best for you? Feel free to drop us a note on social or email us with your questions and we’ll do our best to walk you through our suggestions. Or, better yet – pop into Avalanche Safety Solutions next time you’re rolling through Golden, BC and try them on for yourself!