There’s a good reason why skiing and snowboarding are considered to be extreme sports: they carry a certain risk level. In fact, snowboarding injures an average of 4 per thousand people each day. While most of the injuries are sprains, some accidents are life changing.
Aaron Coret was an avid snowboarder, and he’s working his way to becoming a pro when he met an accident more than 5 years ago. He was in Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, attempting to jump at 50 feet. He was confident—he had done this multiple times. However, when he landed, he felt nothing but numbness. The supposed familiar jump was actually an out-of-control one that when he went down he broke two of his vertebrae, leaving him a quadriplegic.
However, instead of being scared, he was motivated to pursue his passion in a completely different way. Together with his friend and co-founder Stephen Slen, another engineer, they developed and grew Katal, now considered one of the best brands for airbags or landing pads for skiing and snowboarding.
Chiemsee Progression Tour Stop
The Seal of Safety
One of the things we’ve learned from Aaron’s experience is the fact that fear doesn’t get you anywhere—it only prevents you from pursuing the things you love or living a great life. Fear, rather, should be conquered, and in snowboarding, you do it by improving your level of safety.
A huge benefit of using Katal is its seal of safety—their products are designed with safety as its prime objective. But how do they do it?
There is a growing number of sellers of airbags in the market, but Katal distinguishes itself by offering IJS (identical jump system).
The injury rate is high among beginners, and that’s perfectly understandable. Most of them don’t have enough tools or equipment to train prior to jumping. Worse, by the time they get into the ski resort, they are forced to use the same terrain of intermediate and veteran snowboarders.
The premise of the IJS is simple: there’s a different setup alongside the landing pad or airbag. This setup is ideal for beginners since it’s safe. It simply allows them to perfect their jump and gain confidence before trying out the real thing.
Katal has become a household name in the world of snowboarding when it won the 2011 Popular Science Invention Award for its airbag. To say that they have been attentive to details is actually an understatement. They were meticulous, making sure that every part makes sense, is fully functional and practical, and, most of all, works toward the safety and ease of use and training for users.
Over the years, the brand has created different types of products, but they normally follow the basic design of a great landing pad:
Protective Topsheet: The landing pad is covered with a specially designed topsheet that may be removed or changed, particularly if you’re also using this equipment for branding and promotions. Regardless of its other use, the topsheet is very durable so it can sustain regular and frequent use. It is also tear resistant, which is very important since snowboarding equipment can have rough edges that will slowly tear the topsheets and affect your land and slide.
Katal European Tour – Solden
Sloped Landing: Many airbags tend to be flat on the top. The only way to reduce your speed upon landing and avoid falling is to ensure that the pad has guards or barriers. Katal’s landing pads (LP) are sloped not only to slow you down and reduce the impact but to also easily transition you in between jumps.
Guard Rail: One of the most important components of Katal’s patented landing pad design is the guard rail chamber. Granted, other airbags do have guard rails. The problem is they are flimsy. They themselves lack structure, so at some point, they will lose the ability to fully support the rider’s weight. In other words, they become useless.
Katal in Mammoth
The guard rails of Katal’s landing pads have chambers that are high pressured to keep them in shape or to give them proper support at all times and regardless of the weight of the rider. They are found along the sides of the LP to prevent snowboarders from rolling then falling off the ground. These chambers are also inflated separately.
The rail guards are also necessary to make the landing surface uniform—that is, there’s no section that is higher than the others that can push the rider to the edge of the pad.
Stopper Guard: Aside from the guard rails, there’s also a stopper guard, which is found at the center and end of the landing pad. As its name suggests, its main use is to slow you down and put you in a complete stop before you exit the landing pad.
Other features of the design include an anchor system, which securely fastens the landing pad on the snowy ground and prevents it from moving, especially when jumpers are coming in at fast speed. There are also exit areas found in sloped landing pads. The air-release system is very easy to use and provides a uniform and consistent flow of air inside the chambers to keep the LP in proper shape and soften the impact upon landing.
Katal has 7 different types of airbags or landing pads to offer:
Mega Landing Pad: This is considered to be the most comprehensive of all the landing pads ever produced by Katal. This is also the most perfect choice if you’re organizing a massive snowboarding tour or event where you can expect hundreds of riders or participants. It measures 20m in length, 16m in width, and 3.4m in height. The gap distance is about 16.2m (the distance between the jump-off point and the landing area).
Prime Landing Pad: The prime landing pad can be the intermediate design since it shares some similarities with the mega and the mini. This is great for intermediate to professional riders. It’s also awesome for beginners who are ready to tackle higher jumps and are more confident of their skills. If you’re on a tight budget, this is a good pick since it’s cheaper than the Mega Landing Pad. It has a maximum gap distance of 12m.
Mini Landing Pad: This is the smallest of the three, measuring 14m in length, 10m in width, and 2.4m in height. The possible gap distance is only 9m or 25 feet. The good thing is that it’s the most flexible because it’s compact. So if you want to have a landing pad in a small terrain park or in your community during winter, this is an excellent choice. It’s also the quickest to install and disassemble. Because of its gap distance, it’s also less scary for beginners.
These three mentioned airbags are perfect for slope-style and half-pipe jumps. They are also easily customized especially when it comes to the topsheet for branding or marketing (more on this later). Thus, the company offers three more: Kustom Mega, Kustom Prime, and Kustom Mini.
The last one is the flat landing pad. This is ideal for events or competitions that feature free-drops or very big air jumps. This also makes the landing pad great for safety in skiing.
As you can get from its name, it doesn’t have any slope, but it’s still able to reduce the impact through its inner chambers found within the topsheet. It also features the standard rail guard chambers found on all sides of the airbag for the same reason—that is, prevent you from falling off regardless of your weight (and when you have equipment with you, you’ll definitely weigh significantly heavier). It has a length and width of 16m, height of 2.5m, and a gap distance of 16.2m (or about 55 feet).
Progression Tour at Kingspark, Muhlback, AT
When you buy any of these landing pads, you’ll receive a full kit that already includes:
You also have to include $2,000 for training of your operators along with accommodation and other travel-related expenses such as air fare.
How do ski resorts and event organizers make money? Of course, you have to look into their basic business model, which is getting fees every time someone uses the park or joins a competition or an event. However, that may not be enough to pay for everything and earn a profit.
To understand this, just imagine if an event features a by-invitation competition for the elites. Most probably the organizers sponsor their air fare, accommodation, and other expenses for travel. They also have to come up with money as prizes. They can sell tickets for entrance, but they cannot let their potential customers pay a lot. Otherwise, no one is going to come to the event! So how do they raise this money?
These landing pads may be used for that purpose as well:
All types of sports have risks. When we talk about snowboarding, you may injure your wrist or your shoulders, or meet a more severe accident as in the case of Aaron.
However, for any person engaged and passionate with sports like snowboarding, risks are a part of life and some of the reasons why it is exciting and challenging.
Most of all, these risks can be mitigated by using a very reliable landing pad. Think of it this way: after your adventure, you want to come home to a soft bed. That’s the perfect analogy to use for these pads. After a big jump, you want to make sure you’ll end up on an airbag that softens your impact, slows you down, and eliminates injuries so you can do the thing you love the most over and over.
Katal guarantees that with its IJS, which allows beginners to train first in an almost real-life setting before trying it out in an actual terrain. Its patented design has safety written all over it, because it takes one memorable experience to understand how extremely important it is.