Avalanche hazard affect many different user groups. Traditional recreational backcountry user groups include backcountry skiers, snowmobile riders and out-of-bounds skiers. But there are also smaller groups, such as ice climbers and mountaineers, and emerging groups like snow-shoers. And then there are commercial guiding operations and professional avalanche safety operations. Each of these groups have different objectives, levels of awareness and risk management expertise.

Our objective in this research area is to advance our understanding of the motivations, attitudes and the strength and weaknesses of the risk management process of the different groups. This knowledge is critical for developing effective prevention initiatives that address existing challenges.

Research projects

Current projects

  • How do recreationists read, understand and apply the information presented in Canadian avalanche bulletins?

    What information is used by whom? How well is it understood? What are the barriers for effective communication?

    Objective

    Avalanche Canada publishes daily avalanche bulletins to communicate avalanche hazard information to the public in western Canada. Having an in-depth understanding of how recreationalists find, interpret and incorporate avalanche bulletin information into their decision-making process for traveling in the winter backcountry is crucial for ensuring effective risk communication and thereby for improving public safety. However, there has only been very limited research in this area to-date. This research project aims to address this knowledge gap by explicitly examining whether recreationalists use Avalanche Canada’s risk communication products as they are intended to be used. The overall framework for the research is the well-established Mental Model Approach to Risk Communication, a systematic process to identify and evaluate improvements in risk communication systems. The results of this study will provide insight into how Avalanche Canada’s messaging products are used, how they are applied, if they are applied correctly, and how they could resonate with the intended audience more effectively.

    Primary researcher

    Anne St Clair, Henry Finn

    Related publications

    In preparation

    Industrial partners

    Avalanche Canada

    Funding

    Avalanche Canada
    Avalanche Canada Foundation
    MITACS Accelerate Fellowship in partnership with Avalanche Canada

Relevant past projects

  • Mountain snowmobilers and avalanches

    What factors influence the avalanche information seeking of mountain snowmobilers?

    Summary

    The goals of this study were to gain a better understanding of the general characteristics of mountain snowmobilers (e.g. demographics, snowmobile characteristics, experience, training, trip details, etc.), and identify what factors affect their avalanche risk perception and how they adjust their terrain preferences in response to avalanche information using a discrete choice experiment. This study also investigated potential barriers that prevent snowmobilers from taking a formal avalanche course or checking the avalanche bulletin using the Risk Information Seeking and Processing model (RISP).

    Primary researcher

    Luke Strong-Cvetich

    Related publications

    Strong-Cvetich (2014) Mountain Snowmobilers and Avalanches: An Examination of Precautionary Behaviour. M.R.M. research project no. 586, 2014-1. School of Resource and Environmental Management. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.

    Industrial partner

    Avalanche Canada

    Funding

    Avalanche Canada‘s Mountain Snomobiling SAR-NIF grant

  • Out-of-bounds skiers and avalanches

    What out-of-bounds skiers are most at risk at getting involved in an avalanche accident?

    Summary

    The present research focuses on identifying and characterizing out-of-bounds skiers most at risk of involvement in an avalanche incident. An innovative multidimensional approach that integrates the three central dimensions of avalanche risk management (training and experience, risk mitigation practices and terrain choices) is used to assign a risk level to out-of-bounds skiers and snowboarders participating in an extensive online survey. Subsequently, high-risk and low-risk groups are compared with respect to motivations and attitudes, risk perception, sensations seeking, self-efficacy, and understanding of ski area out-of-bounds policies.

    Primary researcher

    Matt Gunn

    Related publications

    Haegeli et al. (2012) Identifying a high-risk cohort in a complex and dynamic risk environment:
    Out-of-bounds skiing—an example from avalanche safety. Prevention Science, 13(6), 562-573.

    Gunn (2010) Out of Bounds Skiers and Avalanche Risk: High-risk Cohort Identification and Characterization. M.R.M. research project no. 487, 2010-1. School of Resource and Environmental Management. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.

    Industrial partner

    Avalanche Canada

    Funding

    Avalanche Canada‘s ADFAR2 SAR-NIF grant

Recent publications

Using discrete choice experiments to examine the stepwise nature of avalanche risk management decisions—An example from mountain snowmobiling

Journal PaperUser Groups
Pascal Haegeli and Luke Robbins Strong-Cvetich
Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. doi:10.1016/j.jort.2018.01.007
Publication year: 2018

Accident causes and organizational culture among avalanche professionals

Journal PaperUser Groups
Jerry Johnson, Pascal Haegeli, Jordy Hendrikx, Scott Savage
Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 13, 49-56
Publication year: 2016

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