See professional skier successfully deploy airbag while tumbling in avalanche

Two skiers with airbags
(Image credit: Getty)

A professional skier has shared a shocking video of herself being caught in an avalanche, but walking away safely after successfully deploying her airbag. Norwegian skier Hedvig Wessel posted the clip from her GoPro camera online as a reminder to make sure you're properly prepared before heading out onto the mountains, and know how to use your emergency gear.

Sluff is essentially a mini avalanche – a release of snow that's common when riding steep slopes, and Wessel knew she had to plan carefully around it. 

"On this run, I knew I had to ski fast, to ski in front of my sluff," she explained. "I also had to work from left to right, to minimize the chances of the sluff reaching me."

Unfortunately, the line became narrower as she reached the bottom, and suddenly the sluff caught up with her, sending her tumbling as you can see in the clip below.

When she realized she might be in real danger, Wessel had the presence of mind to pull the toggle and activate her airbag, which likely helped prevent her becoming buried. As winter sports site Powder explains, this was the first time she'd needed to use it, but she says the action came naturally. She came to rest unharmed, upright on top of the snow, and was able to immediately call and report the incident.

How do avalanche airbags work?

An avalanche airbag makes you more buoyant by giving you more volume than usual, helping you stay at the top of the moving snow. Think of shaking up a bag of trail mix – all the little seeds fall though the gaps and go to the bottom, while the big banana chips move to the top. With your airbag, you are a banana chip.

If you do get buried, the airbag can give you more room to breathe until you're rescued. According to the Utah Avalanche Center, research shows that a deployed avalanche airbag will reduce mortality by 50% in all cases where the user was able to deploy their airbag.

Of course, there are occasions when you might not be able to deploy it. Your arm might be trapped, for example, or the avalanche might simply happen too fast for you to react. The bag won't protect you from trauma if you hit a rock or tree either, but properly worn, it can increase your odds of survival in an accident.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.