KPU design student from Sweden creates an avalanche airbag vest

Emilia Steinbock’s design aims to enhance womens’ skiing abilities with an innovative weight distribution system

Emilia Steinbock is a Swedish international student at KPU enrolled in the technical apparel design program and created an avalanche airbag vest for women to increase safety and accessibility in the sport. (Submitted)

Emilia Steinbock is a Swedish exchange student at KPU enrolled in the technical apparel design program and developed a unique avalanche airbag vest for enhanced mobility when in the backcountry. (Submitted)

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said Steinbock was in colloboration with Arc’teryx apparel. The article has been updated for accuracy. The Runner regrets the error. 

A visiting design student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University has created an avalanche airbag vest for female backcountry skiers. Emilia Steinbock, who is from Sweden, is enrolled in the study abroad option for international students and studies at KPU’s Richmond campus in technical apparel design. 

Steinbock presented her design to Arc’teryx, a North American brand specializing in climbing and skiing equipment. She has been working on the project since March, and has received industry feedback on the product from Arc’teryx.  

“We had [to design] personal protective equipment for women or minority groups in a dangerous context,” Steinbock says. 

“I knew right away that I wanted to do an avalanche airbag vest for women [because] … the outdoor industry is very male dominated. The designs come from a male’s perspective, which doesn’t translate to what females want,” she says. 

Steinbock says the fit of outdoor clothing for women is usually compromised as it’s not fully adjustable to the female body and often features stereotypical colours like pink or purple. 

“Especially with a product as vital as an avalanche airbag vest which actually saves lives, it is crucial that a product like this fits you well and makes you want to wear it when you go skiing … if it doesn’t fit and makes you feel clumsy when you ski, [women] tend to choose not to wear it.” 

Steinbock says a big motivation for her was to enhance skiing abilities and make the product more suitable for backcountry skiing. 

Skiing has been a valuable part of Steinbock’s life. Growing up, she and her family would spend the majority of winter in northern Sweden, renting out ski lodges at Storhgona Winterlodge, the same area her dad used to ski in as a child. 

“I’ve always loved mountains, nature, and being outdoors. Being in nature gives me a lot of peace and mindfulness.”

Steinbock says she was inspired by friends and the perspectives of those in the skiing community to develop this product in an effort to make skiing safer and more accessible for women. 

One of the features of her airbag vest is it can distribute weight evenly across the body, which is not the case when compared to most products. 

“The backpack usually moves back and forth a lot when you ski, so I was trying to come up with a solution to make it fit tighter and feel like another skin layer, not like it is on top of you,” she says.  

Steinbock is looking forward to seeing the response to her design once it comes out. 

“I’m very excited. People have shown so much enthusiasm and interest in the product [already],” she says. 

As of now, Steinbock is continuing to refine the product for it to reach its highest potential and is planning for distribution within the industry. 

“I will continue to do this for the rest of the year … and then see where the project takes me,” she says. 

“I want to contribute to innovate and develop ski wear for women. That has always been my goal. This is definitely a step in the right direction towards changing the industry.”