With the increased interest in the burgeoning sport of backcountry skiing, certain brands such as Arc’teryx are stepping up their safety game and coming out with new products to ensure the safety of skiers and boarders who find themselves spending more time out of bounds in terrain more susceptible to avalanches. I had the pleasure of trying their new Voltair out in the sidecountry of Whistler.
Earlier this year, Arc’teryx debuted its Voltair avalanche airbag (available in a 20L as well as a 30L). The backpack is designed for backcountry travel and features an advanced airbag technology which when deployed, will allow the skier or snowboarder to float on the surface of the snow during an avalanche. By keeping the skier or snowboarder at the snow’s surface, they have a less chance of being buried which then increases their chance of survival.
The Voltair is powered by a heavy-duty 22.2V Lithium-Ion Polymer rechargeable battery which allows the bag to be deployed multiple times. Most other avalanche airbags are designed using the traditional compressed air cylinder system which are limited to one deployment.
Being capable of having multiple deployments allows skiers and snowboarders to test the Voltair at home in the backyard or in a park before actually needing to use it in a real life situation. It is also good to note that they made the pack AND battery TSA compliant so you can bring both on board with you (nothing like arriving at your ski destination while your luggage arrives in Zanzibar).
It is important to note that the battery as well as the charger are sold separately from the backpack. Ensure that you have all the right equipment and that all parts are installed correctly before venturing into avalanche terrain.
To deploy the airbag, pull the mechanical trigger found on the shoulder strap. It can be easily locked in the off position (a red “X” will be visible visible) for travelling or riding the chairlift or in the gondola. When the trigger is turned the other way and ready for deployment, there will be a small, green circle visible. When skiing with friends who find themselves hilarious make sure it is locked in the off position when on the chairlift.
Once the airbag is deployed, it continues bursting rapidly for a period, continuously filling the airbag with air. This allows the airbag a chance to inflate even if it has received a small tear or puncture from hard or sharp objects nearby. If the skier or snowboarder reaches the point where the airbag begins to deflate, it will leave a pocket in the snow where the skier or snowboarder has air and space to move. If the skier or snowboarder finds themselves under the snow, this pocket that is created when the bag deflates will allow the stuck individual some air and space to work with to free themselves.
The Voltair also boasts an organizational pocket found on the front of the backpack which is ideal for safety gear like a shovel, probe and a beacon. It’s also a great place to stash your skins and keep any wet gear or equipment from away from the main compartment.
The zippers are WaterTight™ and will keep any items inside dry and protected from any elements that may be experienced. The backpack is manufactured with Advanced Composite Construction (AC²) making it seam taped and highly water resistant. Other features include front lash ladders and diagonal straps so if you are hiking you can easily attach your skis or snowboard to the backpack. There are also tool loops which can be used to keep everything in place so you don’t have any loose flying gear.
After two days of use I found myself not realizing it was on my back. In no way does it impinge your ski movements and even with a heavy load, it is comfortable.
Whether you choose the Voltair 20L weighing 3235g/7.1lbs or the Voltair 30L weighing 3465g/7.6lbs, the Arc’teryx Voltair is leading the way in advanced avalanche safety equipment and is the backcountry pack to recon with to ensure your safety in avalanche terrain.