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Four people have died already in avalanches in Utah this season. Today at Snowbasin, they're demonstrating a device they think could greatly reduce numbers like that.
Buried in packed snow is how Kenji Haroutunian spent part of his day. An avid backcountry skier, he's lost some friends to avalanches. He hopes a device like the Avalung, a backpack with a breathing tube that can extract oxygen from the snow, will make a difference.
"I feel like I'm doing a tiny, little bit for the advancement of avalanche science and sort of paying respect to my friends that I've lost, and maybe communing with their spirits a little bit," he said.
Normally, a trapped skier can survive only about 15 minutes. The Avalung has been tested up to two hours.
"The idea of the Avalung was to divert the exhale carbon dioxide, which is at much higher levels than we breathe in regular air, and try to divert that away so we can keep fresh oxygen goming in to the inlet of the Avalung," explained Marty Radwin, whose company, Black Diamond Equipment, created the device.
The Avalung is among numerous devices being marketed for retailers during the annual Winter Outdoor Retailer show that begins tomorrow in Salt Lake City.
Bruce Tremper, of the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center, says for the most part, cross-country skiers who travel into the back-country are well equipped. The same goes for a growing number of snowmobilers. But he says many people who ski out of bounds at local resorts are not.