Katie Fisher, Pascal Haegeli and Patrick Mair
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss. [preprint], https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2021-324, in review, 2021.
Publication year: 2021

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Abstract

Recreationists are responsible for developing their own risk management plans for travelling in avalanche terrain. In order to provide guidance for recreationists on mitigating exposure to avalanche hazard, many avalanche warning services include explicit travel and terrain advice (TTA) statements in their daily avalanche bulletins where forecasters offer guidance about what specific terrain to avoid and what to favour under the existing hazard conditions. However, the use and effectiveness of this advice has never been tested to ensure it meets the needs of recreationists developing their risk management approach for backcountry winter travel.

We conducted an online survey in Canada and the United States to determine which user groups are paying attention to the TTA in avalanche bulletins, what makes these statements useful, and if modifications to the phrasing of the statements would improve their usefulness for users. Our analysis reveals that the core audience of the TTA is users with introductory level avalanche awareness training who integrate slope-scale terrain considerations into their avalanche safety decisions. Using a series of ordinal mixed effect models, we show that reducing the jargon used in the advice helped users with no or only introductory level avalanche awareness training understand the advice significantly better and providing additional context for the advice made the advice more useful for them. These results provide avalanche warning services with critical perspectives and recommendations for improving their TTA so that they can better support recreationists who are at earlier stages of developing their avalanche risk management approach and therefore need the support the most.