Come spring when Chugach Powder Guides starts dropping its guests on the peaks around Girdwood, Alaska, via magic carpet, a.k.a. A-Star choppers, all the stoked skiers and boarders will be wearing Mammut avalanche air bags — free of charge.
“Our goal is to avoid avalanches, obviously,” says operations manager Jeff Gross. “But we learned last year when we offered the Mammut R.A.S. 18 to clients as a rental that they wanted them.” Gross says that customers are typically bringing a camera, an extra layer, and want hydration with them anyway and if that pack they’re carrying can also save their bacon in a slide, all the better — it’s worth it to make sure everyone is outfitted. “If we have 48 clients we want everyone to have an airbag.”
The Mammut connection is no coincidence: The company skied with Chugach a few years ago to get input on airbag development. One important factor to Chugach was quick repair and being able to refill the Snowpulse cartridge locally. “We can go right down to the local volunteer fire company and refill the canisters there; with an ABS system you’d have to send them back and that could be a longer turnaround,” said Gross.
Chugach believes airbag tech will become as standard as carrying a beacon, a shovel, and a probe for backcountry skiers and Mammut is looking at the guide-client relationship as an obvious marketing tool, where they’ll sell more packs and convert more skiers pushing the limits to be outfitted with every possible safety precaution.
“This isn’t about scaring people. This is about taking every step and using all tools available to keep our guests safe,” said Chris Owens, Chugach Powder Guides’ brand manager.