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In & Motion's Ski Airbags aim to save your spine

It's like Bond's inflatable ski jacket from 'The World is not Enough,' but real.

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If there's one thing that terrifies a downhill skier, it's probably the risk of making an awkward landing on rock-solid ice. That's the issue that French company In & Motion is looking to solve with the Ski Airbag Vest. It's essentially a wearable airbag that'll inflate to prevent people from denting their organs should things go wrong. It's here at CES that the firm is showing off the technology for the first time, and if you're in the skiing fraternity, it might just be the gadget to save your life.

Gallery: In & Motion Ski Airbag Vest hands-on | 11 Photos

You can probably guess how it works: A rechargeable pack with a gyroscope is plugged into the rigid spine cover at the back of the vest. The hardware is connected to a small gas cylinder that can be triggered at a moment's notice, such as when the algorithms detect that the wearer is about to land awkwardly. If that happens, the whole thing will inflate to protect the chest, abdomen and spine in the hope of cushioning the fall. In addition, two L-shaped straps protrude out to try and guard your hips against any injuries that could threaten mobility. If there's an issue, it's that the device is 800 grams heavier than conventional safety technology—anathema to an athlete obsessed with weight-shaving.

Inflatable clothing for winter sports has existed in various forms, although more in fiction than in reality. (You may recall Pierce Brosnan's inflatable ski jacket from The World Is Not Enough.) That said, the North Face launched a pioneering backpack that inflated to protect climbers in avalanches back in 2011. The technology proved lifesaving for professional skier Elyse Saugstad just a year later.

The vest is currently in testing with various professional skiers, and the company plans to have the gear ready for July 2016. Whereas existing safety devices will set you back only $300 to $400, the first-generation In & Motion is expected to cost $1,200. Thankfully, the gear will be reusable, and apparently it is reasonably easy to swap out spent gas canisters—although you will have to replace the vest entirely should it become damaged beyond repair. Still, if it's a choice between a few extra bucks and a long time in the hospital, the decision's a bit of a no-brainer.

Dana Wollman photographed a man's butt for this report.

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