First of all, let’s not hide things – There are several key players in the Avalanche Airbag world – let’s look at them here:
- Highmark by Snowpulse – snowmobile specific packs
- BCA – ski and snowmobile packs
- Black Diamond/Pieps – ski packs (though the Pieps brand is marketed to snowmobilers)
- Alpride – this is a technology used by Scott, Motorfist and Klim. There’s the Alpride BATTERY systems, but also an Alpride CARTRIDGE Technology.
- ABS – are these guys even still out there?
In order to talk about avalanche airbags, we’ve got to start with the deployment technology – that’s the question customers ask, so let’s go there first.
Battery Technology – you’ll find this in Black Diamond/Pieps packs and in some of the Alpride Systems (Motorfist and Klim). No refilling required, just ensuring that the battery is charged. These packs are typically pricier and require specific attention to ensure they’re charged. Most can do multiple deployments per charge.
Compressed Air Technology – you’ll find this in Highmark and BCA. Compressed Air cylinders are filled with dry air and mechanically deployed. Filling costs $10-$30 per refill. One deployment per charge. These packs are typically less expensive (even with the canister than their Battery Counterparts).
Compress Gas Technology – You’ll find this in one of the Alpride Systems, which uses two small cartridges and in ABS, which uses compressed Nitrogen. These are a one-time use, non-rechargeable (i.e. throw out or send away) and typically $50-$90 to refill.
So what technology is best for your customer? We recommend presenting the following to them and letting them make the call:
- Do they know somewhere they can get a refill on a compressed air cylinder? Can you recommend a place to them? If so, a refill is easy and gets customers into stores – not the worst thing in the world.
- Are they planning on flying with their avalanche airbag? Those who want to fly with airbags are a main demo for battery operated technologies – especially those living in the states. Like your Canadian snowmobiling customer is exclusively on the road, so this is a non-issue. Battery packs are also aimed at people taking multi-day backcountry trips (re: skiers). Chances are, your customers are day-trippers.
- Are they prepared to keep their pack charged? Battery-operated packs are great until you get out of the truck at the trailhead and find it dead.
- What kind of technology are they comfortable with? Are they good with firmware or would they prefer something mechanical?
No answer your customer gives is wrong and chances are, they’ll talk themselves in the pack they want – you just need to know the details of your packs.
Next – what features does your customer want? Beyond the deployment type, the fit and function of the pack is the next most important consideration your customer will make.
Volume of the pack – typically, snowmobile packs are smaller volume than a ski pack. The idea is that much of their gear is carried in a tunnel pack, but it’s also worth considering that your customer just may not be used to wearing a pack at all, so this is big step for them. A lower-profile, lower volume pack is likely what they’re looking for.
Trigger Handles – Most people are right-handed, so triggers are typically located on the left-hand-side of packs. Makes sense, right? But let’s say you’re on a sled and a slide is triggered above you. What’s your first reaction? Gas it. Gas it hard. And if your right hand is on the throttle, it sure can’t pull the trigger handle. That’s why snowmobile packs have the trigger on the right side for the left hand to pull.
Shovel Carry – ski packs tend to store the shovel inside the pack. If you’ve ever seen a skier in the backcountry, he sure as hell isn’t doing as muchshovellingg as your snowmobile crew. A sledder’s shovel needs to readily and repeatedly accessible. Having it inside the pack is a pain in the butt and risks getting all your gear wet.
Warranty – in the end, you want to be able to recommend a good product that your customer will like and recommend to their friends that they buy from you. Have you dealt with the warranty of this product before? How quickly can you get your customer back out sledding?
Which brings us to the sell – you ready?
Deployment Tech – we find that when it comes to understanding how their packs work, snowmobilers choose a mechanical deploy almost every time. They understand how it works, how to check it and how to fix it. They aren’t flying with their packs and don’t mind coming by the shop to get a refill. They’re probably coming in any way. Snowpulse is a proven, reliable deployment system. It doesn’t leak, it’s easy to understand and it’s extremely effective.
Features of the Pack – everything listed above is based on Highmark’s production plan. The packs are designed in Golden, BC with the help and input from a team of Athletes based across the Western part of North America. Together with the safety machine that is Mammut’s Snowpulse – we truly believe that these packs are going to satisfy every need that your customers have.
The bottom line – avalanche airbags are a significant investment for your clients, but after all they spend on their sleds, you know they should be investing in an avy pack as well. It’s the ultimate opportunity to make sure your customer is a return customer.