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Technology on the slopes --- how it's saving lives

It's being snowing hard throughout Europe recently creating plenty of powder for skiers and snowboarders to play in. It would be champagne all round except the shortfall of snow at the start of the season has now left much of Europe with unstable conditions.

In a word --- avalanches.

There have been 75 deaths in Europe since the New Year.

Technology is being turned to as a way to help make search and rescue easier and to save lives.

First under the spotlight – transceivers. Traditionally analogic, they are now being built using a numeric system making it easier to detect and locate someone buried in the snow.

Further advancements have been made in equipment such as electronic probes and even airbags --- worn as a backpack the airbag inflates in four seconds and then automatically deflates after three minutes to create an air pocket for someone beneath the surface to be able to breathe into.

With safety equipment advancing at such a rate, search times are being reduced and the chances of people being found are increasing. It's good news all round.

Modern ski technology is not just about saving lives though. Goggles that provide information such as your speed, distance travelled and height are becoming commonplace. As are those with a record button.

In the world of social media naturally many have in-built bluetooth so people can post videos of themselves speeding down the slopes instantly. This is bringing a whole new level of excitement into skiers' and snowboarders' lives.

Cold hands can be a thing of the past too with battery-powered heated gloves and there are a slew of apps for smart phones that can track speed, location and altitude.

There are plenty of trackers and devices for skiis too so that if one or both skis were to come off in a snow drift, they have a good chance of being found. The trackers for this work better than ever before.

Some are worried the reliance on technology is making people take more (and bigger) risks than before and that the focus is shifting to being able to ski faster rather than better. Keeping in mind the basic safety rules of skiing in pairs, taking advice and of course looking out for avalanche warnings etc remains important regardless of what technology and safety equipment is being carried by the individuals.

27 February 2015

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