Any one know how many people have survived as a direct result of using this equipment?
It is a good question. The problem with any “active” safety equipment is will you have time to deploy it? In the case of the ABS Airbag you need to be able to pull on a trigger handle, for the AvaLung you need to be able to place and keep the breathing tube in your mouth. Neither is going to be easy in a big avalanche.
An avalanche in the Combe des Lanchettes in mid-January demonstrated the limits of the ABS Airbag, particuarly where the wearers are unfamiliar with the equipment.
There have been at least four sucesses with the AvaLung and these are details on the AvaLung website:
http://www.avalung.com/ - (flash site)
An example is this incident in Tignes:
On January 29, 2005, at 12:55 PM, Martin Gulsrud (24) of Norway was skiing an area near the Tufs at the resort Tignes, France, when he was caught in an avalanche. He was buried approximately 2.5 meters beneath the surface for 20 minutes. An experienced off piste skier, Gulsrud and his group were following avalanche terrain protocol and skiing one at a time and carrying shovels, probes and avalanche beacons. Gulsrud was also wearing a Black Diamond AvaLung. This decision may have saved his life.
Initial third party reports and photos from the avalanche site indicate that Gulsrud was in remarkable shape when he was dug out by the ski patrol at Tignes. He was uninjured, conscious and buried in a seated position with one arm above his head.
Of course his AvaLung may have been only 1 factor in his survival. This kind of equipment should not be used to increase the risks you take and the AvaLung should always be worn with a beacon.