Snow Burial Simulations

Safeback has spent extensive time in the field putting our modeled hypotheses to the test in various different snow types.

Mechanical Properties of Different Snow Types

Our team has set up experiments in every type of snow from wet, large-crystal snow found on the glaciers of Norway in the early summer, to very cold, fine-crystal snow found far above the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter.

Based on our understanding and calculations of fluid dynamics of gases in snow, we hypothesized that air would move more freely through warmer snowpacks due to their larger snow crystal composition. Similar to marbles, larger snow crystals create larger cavities for air to travel through.

Field Testing Design and Results

Testing design and oversight was supported by the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, as a part of the research grant Safeback received from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense.

Our test design in all snowpacks remained constant: A test dummy was placed under the snow with a hose feeding through its mouth. Through this hose, we supplied a flow of Carbon Dioxide which simulated an avalanche victim under stress, and the amount of pressure that the human body can apply when exhaling.

CO2 sensors were placed strategically in the snowpack to measure gas travel in the directions we expected the gases to be moving. The control observations in all snowpacks had no Safeback system, whereas the test observations had a Safeback SBX actively running.

Key Findings

Snow Type and Airfow

Safeback SBX can significantly clean the breathing area in all types of snow from -30°C to 0°C (-22°F to 32°F) The higher the snow temperature, the more gas is transported by Safeback SBX.

Runtime in Extreme Cold

The battery pack can run for 90 minutes at -30°C (-22°F), supplying breathable air for that entire period. Battery life increases with increasing temperatures.

Breathing Assistance in Deadly Avalanches

by Lars Aarønæs, Research Journalist

The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) has contributed with researchers to help us design our experiments and give resources to correctly measure the effect of our system.

More Research and Testing

Independent Medical Trial: Full Burial Testing

Eurac Research has conducted an independent medical trial of Safeback SBX to explore the extent to which the system can extend delay suffocation during burial.

Read more

Medical Needs of Snow Burial Victims

Based on the problem set of oxygen deprivation during avalanche burial, independent medical trials were conducted by the Mountain Medical Research Group at the University of Bergen.

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Technical Solutions for Supplying Air Through Snow

Developing the Safeback SBX system has required significant testing of all components, both individually and as an integrated system.

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Backpacks Tested During Burial Simulations

Safeback SBX

Designed to provide breathable air to an avalanche victim under the snow, extending their potential survival window.