Gadgets or education?

By meteomorris on 25 November 2013 · 6

Joe at [la Grave](
Joe at [la Grave](

Joe Vallone is a well respected mountain guide who grew up in the US and nowadays lives in La Grave. On his facebook page he posted a Survey Question. I am wondering what your opinion is..... His post:

I can't help but to notice and assume that not all, but what appears to be most of the winter sports consumer market now a days are more willing to spend their money on gear and gadgets then investing in education, experience, professional development and or hiring a guide. This is something I have known and noticed for well over a decade, but I think is really only recently coming to light in the mainstream but not really being driven home the way it should be, and unfortunately it is advertising dollars, mainstream media marketing and sales that will influence much of this.

I have observed this behavior since my late 90's and early 2000's when I lived in Ski Country USA amongst friends, partners, local pros, and even the media kings, reps, managers and promoters that controlled our sport at the time.

I don't think much has changed. This leads me to the subject of the air bag owner. I would guess that most current airbag owners spent more money on their bags then their education. (I know some incredibly talented and educated folks that use bags but you are in a giant minority)


If you have $1000.00 to spend, what would you choose to spend it on? You can either spend it on an airbag, or avi education/guided instruction. What do you think is the better value and or return on investment? What do you think?

Disclaimer: I am not anti airbag and this is only my facebook page where I can entertain myself.


  • Romain
    Romain op 25 November 2013 · 11:28
    Well, the obvious answer is you need to get both!
    BUT, if I had to spend EUR/USD/CHF1'000 for either one of the options, I would go for EDUCATION. Actually here is the chronology that I followed, which seems pretty logical:
    1- Bought a backpack+Probe+Shovel+DVA
    2- Learned how to use my DVA with friends before our first runs off piste
    3- Hired a guide for me and my girlfriend for a one day avalanche awareness programme
    4- Hired a guide several times to go discover a couple of itinaries, and keep learning about avalanche, roping technique, crevasse rescuing, etc...
    5- Bought an airbag pack
    6- Still planning on hiring a guide for more technical runs...

    And all that, although I'm a certified ski instructor and have been playing in the mountains since the age of 2.

    And yet, I still get a knot in my stomach whenever I'm about to drop in a powder line...
  • Kingma
    Kingma op 25 November 2013 · 12:28
    Interesting! Education is in my opinion the best investment! Some people do think that an airbag is an equivalent to the ejection seat as an escape. In my opinion it is better to reduce the risks. Compare it to driving a car. At first you get your license, then you know that a seat belt and other measures can shed your chances. But without knowledge and a belt, you're a danger to yourself, others and the rescue!
    when men and mountain meet
  • Patrick2
    Patrick2 op 25 November 2013 · 13:12
    I know Joe from the skiers lodge in La Grave . He is a passionate mountaineer. A great guy, great drummer and party animal. I like to come into the lodge because of the fantastic opportunities . But above all, they take security very seriously there.

    Investing in educatio, as Joe suggests is IMHO only useful if you're a lot in the mountains . If not, it works I guess wrong and creates a false sense of security . For everyone who is at maximum 15 days per year in the mountains, it seems rather dangerous.

    I will explain why.. Avalanches are rather complex and they require more than just a course. It requires lot of experience and discipline. The great risk of course is that you think you know it all, but due to lack of experience, you might make the wrong decisions.

    That's why I ski already for 10 years once a year for a week under supervison of a guide. I even once escaped death when a massive avalanche was caused by myself. The experinced guide stood shaking from the stress and couldn't believe his eyes. So you see that even with an experienced guide it sometimes might go wrong.

    Ski you later.

  • telemikey
    telemikey op 25 November 2013 · 18:22
    My first reaction? Seems a no brainer to me: without education gadgets are useless. There's a english saying: "a stitch in time saves nine" or to put it differently "prevention is better than the cure".

    The airbag example is a good one. Though an airbag may reduce your chances of survival once you are in an avalanche, there are examples (don't know the numbers) of deployed airbags where the owners either got buried really deep and/ or being pummeled to bits (death/ broken limbs). So in short: you might have bought yourself an airbag but that doesn't mean you won't get hurt bad.

    Education reduces the chance that you will be caught in an avalanche in the first place!

    However... having typed the above: it all depends on how educated you are. I mean, if I were Werner Munter, I'd probably be better off buying an airbag. But if I were a newbie freerider... see above!

    That said, it also means that how I choose to spend my money greatly hinges on how I view my own knowledge level... Maybe many ppl think that they're relatively knowledgeable?

    PS I've put in time with multiple avy courses, both theory as well as practical experience with guides. Only recently did I buy an airbag.
    White room,Pillow lines,I rule
  • telemikey
    telemikey op 26 November 2013 · 09:25
    Typo: 'reduce' should read 'increase'

    [insert blushing smiley]
    White room,Pillow lines,I rule
  • William Boolman
    William Boolman op 28 December 2019 · 13:05
    Education is in my opinion the best investment! In my opinion it is better to reduce the risks. Without knowledge and a belt, you're a danger to yourself and others!
    William Boolman


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