By Karin Gelschus
What was originally anticipated to be a big hit among skiers and snowboarders has taken hold in the snowmobile industry.
The new Float 30 backpack is designed to keep mountain adventurers from being buried in avalanches. The devise is already completely sold out, says Steve Christie, director of sales at Backcountry Access (BCA), manufacturer of outdoor equipment.
The Float 30 airbag is unique in that it keeps the user on top of the snow during an avalanche. The backpack also protects the head, neck and upper body from trauma. With the airbag’s location behind the head and away from the hips and arms, it preserves the user’s peripheral vision and his or her ability to escape the avalanche before it picks up speed, stated the company.
“This does not replace having to carry a beacon, probe and shovel,” Christie said. “Those are still mandatory pieces of equipment to travel in avalanche terrain.”
The product has been a big seller in the western regions of both the United States and Canada, says Christie.
“The entire western regions in North America have embraced it,” he said, “as well as a lot of riders from the east who travel to the west to ride in the mountains.”
Backcountry Access will sell direct to its several hundred dealers, but the company won’t sell directly to consumers. Christie says more than 50 percent of their dealers carry snowmobiles. The product is expected to be available at the end of December.
“Right now they’re completely sold out, and everyone who ordered them preseason will be provided with them,” said Christie. “It has been extremely well received, and it’s been difficult to meet the demand.”
Due to the high demand, the company plans to at least double its production next year, notes Christie.
“Snowmobilers seem to be early adopters of the airbags,” he said. “One of the reasons is there’s a little bit of extra weight in the backpack when you have the canisters and inflation system. Snowmobilers aren’t affected by that. Skiers are more sensitive to the extra weight of the backpack.”
The product, however, isn’t completely lost upon skiers, snowboarders and climbers. Christie says there’s a fair amount who’ve ordered them, but it’s the snowmobilers who’ve caught on the fastest.
“Snowmobilers are the ones who seem to get it the most,” noted Christie, “and have the least resistance toward them.”
Despite the high demand, Backcountry Access continues to market the product. It has focused a lot of its marketing in the snowmobile industry. Christie says the company’s reps are doing full demos. “The sky is the limit with this stuff,” he said. “We plan to continue to develop and expand this product.”