Early this morning, apparel and equipment brand Mammut issued a safety check for certain Generation 3.0 airbag packs produced in the winters of 2016/17 and 2017/18. The deployment cables in those packs may have been improperly installed. "Safety and quality of the products are the number one priority for Mammut," the brand stated in the safety-check announcement on its website. "For this reason, Mammut is asking customers who own Generation 3.0 Mammut avalanche airbags to check the path of the deployment cable, in order to ensure that their avalanche safety equipment functions correctly."
The problem was discovered recently, during quality control on production models. The company found that, in a few instances, the deployment cable—the line that skiers pull to activate the airbag—was not pulled taut and twisted as a result. Due to the number of problematic trigger cables in the production line, Mammut inferred that some packs may have gone out with similar issues—though none have been reported. Nonetheless, the company urges customers to check their trigger cables.
"We build additional slack into the cable to help prevent accidentally discharging a heavily loaded pack," says David Furman, hard goods manager for Mammut. As a result, the already slack cables didn’t naturally straighten out inside the shoulder strap; instead, they bent. The bend does not prevent the airbag from deploying, but over time it could cause internal friction, making it harder to pull the deployment cable and initiate the airbag release.
"The cable is designed to be bent," says Furman. “In extreme cases, if you were to crimp the cable, you could get enough friction between the housing and the cable that it could be difficult to pull or prevent it from being pulled.”
He emphasizes that there haven’t been any instances of that happening in the field. The bend was discovered in only a handful of production models, and the announcement is more of a precaution. Furman himself has played around with the packs, aggressively bending the cables in various contorted positions, and found no issues with the wire crimping or the airbag otherwise failing to deploy. But, he urges people to be proactive about checking their packs, just in case.
“We want to build good habits,” says Furman. “We want people to take responsibility for their equipment the same way you would check your skis.” In the safety check announcement, Mammut offers specific instructions for users to check the trigger cables in their packs and, if necessary, straighten out the cable. Mammut assures that there are no long-term safety concerns regarding the improperly installed trigger cables. Once the cables are taut, the packs are safe to use again as usual.