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Snow immersion suffocation (SIS) has become the second leading cause of death in skiing snowboarding behind head injuries. SIS occurs when a rider is trapped face down in deep snow and cannot right themselves before suffocating. Snowboarders have no such mechanism that allows them to remove their equipment without their hands and as a result they are highly susceptible to SIS. In 2011, the Chris Zider Memorial Design Competition was created to generate new ideas about how to avoid SIS in snowboarders.  The competition was centered around automatically releasable snowboard binding designs with over 150 design entries from amateur snowboarders to professional engineers.  Thomas Trudel (Head of R&D OutsideInnovation) won the contest with his unique concept that used a hydraulic timer and actuator to add releasable functionality to any strap-in binding.


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Snow immersion suffocation occurs when a skier or rider is trapped in a tree well or other area of deep snow with their head submerged below the surface of the snow. Inability to move or right themselves results in a suffocation and eventual death. As mentioned earlier, the phenomenon is more prevalent in snowboarders than it is in skiers due to skiers ability to kick off their equipment. In 2017 there were 6 deaths at US ski areas alone due to SIS. For more on SIS by the numbers visit:


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This design is a good example of proficiency in mechanical design, CAD assembly management, and design for manufacture.  Although not the most complex assembly, any good parametric CAD model requires the same principles to be used.  Drawing on experience managing large comm-satellite CAD assemblies, those same principles were implemented here.  To design a mechanical solution for this application with no powered components requires a broad depth of knowledge in mechanical design.  Finally, a design that could be used in a retail product requires low cost and design for manufacture is a key element to success.  In this design it is used effectively to drive down unit price.


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To solve this problem OutsideInnovation designed a hydraulic actuator with an integrated hydraulic timer to sense when the rider was upside down and release the equipment at the appropriate time. The design uses no electronics or batteries and can work well beyond the temperature extremes required for snowsports use. OutsideInnovation felt the removal of the need for batteries was essential to the success of the design. The hydraulic actuator and timer use the same fluid reservoir in a unique and elegant package to allow for both hydraulic actuation and timing to be achieved in a compact package size. The design is also economical and was priced by several manufacturers at less than $10 per unit.

Releasable Snowboard Binding


Senior application developer at Vail Resorts

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