Snowboarder deploys avalanche airbag mid-air to see if it can help him fly

Thomas Feuerstein deploys avalanche airbag while snowboarding
(Image credit: thomas.feurstein / Instagram)

Avalanche airbags are a serious matter. They are a vital piece of safety equipment that you should only need to use in the direst of emergencies. They cost a fortune. They are not playthings for powder-based Jackass wanabes…

But, you know, just saying… 

…What would happen if you deployed an avalanche airbag mid-jump while snowboarding?

Luckily we have snowboarder Thomas Feuerstein – who has the snow skills and the fancy avalanche airbag (an Arva Airbag Calgary 18 Reactor, list price $599.95 / €529.90, to be precise) to find out.

So did setting the thing off mid jump give Feuerstein any extra airtime? Did suddenly having an orange balloon suddenly inflating like a ginormous car airbag on his shoulders have an effect in any way on his snowboarding prowess?

“Unfortunately not,” Feuerstein admits to just that question in the messages posted on his video clip, saying simply that, “I’ve always wanted to try that :)” 

“That was an expensive clip!” replied another poster.

People were then quick to suggest other things he could try mid jump to increase his air time, including a parachute or an umbrella. He’s says he’s be up for it, but we’re not sure he’s being serious, especially about going full Mary Poppins.

An avalanche airbag is something you should be taking with you every time you venture into an area that an avalanche risk. It is an airbag designed to fit inside – or already integrated into – a ski backpack. You deploy it by pulling on a cord or handle on the shoulder strap, at which point a brightly colored balloon will inflate, filling with some 150 liters of air or other gas. 

It's rather like the airbag in your car in that sense, but the goal isn't to provide trauma protection; rather, it’s to keep you buoyant so that you don’t get buried, because you’ll have more volume than you normally do, which keeps you higher. The analogy that’s often used to explain how they work is that if you take a bag of trail mix and shake it, all the small sesame seeds will sink to the bottom of the bag and those big banana chips will stay at the top. If you’re able to deploy your airbag when you get caught in a slide, you’re a banana chip.