Despite best intentions, avalanche accidents do occur. The goal of this research area is to provide backcountry users and avalanche rescue personnel with evidence-based information about the factor that affect avalanche survival and the effectiveness of avalanche safety equipment.

Research projects

Current projects

We currently do not have any active research projects in this area.

Relevant past projects

  • Effectiveness of of avalanche airbags

    How useful are avalanche airbags for preventing fatalities?

    Summary

    Avalanche airbags are a relatively new avalanche safety device with great promise to save lives, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness was limited. The objective of this research was to better understand the effectiveness of airbags in the Canadian context and shed light on the existing experiences and concerns about the use of avalanche airbags among mechanized skiing operations in Canada.

    Since the limited size of the Canadian dataset of avalanche incidents involving airbags prevented the statistical analysis to provide meaningful insight, the accident analysis component of the study was expanded to an international collaboration. This collaboration produced Haegeli et al. (2014), which is the most comprehensive evaluation of avalanche airbags to-date.

    Primary researcher

    Pascal Haegeli

    Related publications

    Haegeli, P., Falk, M., Procter, E., Zweifel, B., Jarry, F., Logan, S., et al. (2014). The effectiveness of avalanche airbags. Resuscitation, 85(9), 1197-1203.

    Haegeli, P. (2012) On the effectiveness of avalanche balloon packs in Canadian avalanche incidents. Report prepared for WorkSafeBC, Avisualanche Consulting.

    Haegeli, P. (2012) Overview of existing concerns and operational experience with avalanche balloon packs within the Canadian professional avalanche community. Report prepared for WorkSafeBC, Avisualanche Consulting.

    Haegeli, P. (2012) Examination of avalanche incidents resulting in worker fatalities with respect to possible impacts of avalanche balloon packs. Report prepared for WorkSafeBC, Avisualanche Consulting.

    Industrial partner

    Canadian Avalanche Association

    Funding

    WorkSafeBC – Innovation at Work (Canadian study)
    Self-funded (international collaboration)

  • Comparison of Canadian and Swiss avalanche survival curves

    How long are critically buried avalanche victims able to survive in Canada?

    Summary

    The avalanche survival curve, which describes the change of survival of completely buried avalanche victims as a function of burial duration, is the foundation for evidence-based recommendations on avalanche rescue practices worldwide.  However, the reference survival curve (Falk et al., 1994; Brugger et al,, 2001) for a long time was exclusive based on Swiss avalanche accident records. The objective of this research project was to calculate an avalanche survival curve based on Canadian avalanche accident data and explore any differences with the Swiss curve. The study showed significant differences between the curves of the two countries, which highlights that local conditions need to be taken in consideration when making recommendations for avalanche rescue practices.

    Primary researcher

    Pascal Haegeli

    Related publications

    Haegeli et al. (2011)  Comparison of avalanche survival patterns in Canada and Switzerland. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 183(7), 789-795.

    Funding

    Self-funded

  • Patterns of death among avalanche fatalities in Canada

    What kills Canadian avalanche victims?

    Summary

    The fact that the vast majority of avalanche fatalities die from asphyxia is well established in the avalanche safety community. However, this information is primarily based on European avalanche fatality statistics, where the primary activity in avalanche terrain is backcountry skiing in the alpine. The objective of this study was to better understand the causes of death among avalanche fatalities in Canada, where we also have other type of backcountry users (e.g., mountain snowmobile riders, ice climbers) and skiers also recreate below treeline. The results of our study show that trauma plays a major role in the death of 1 of 3 avalanche fatalities in Canada. In 25% of avalanche fatalities trauma was the primary cause of death, which an additional 8% of the victims who died from asphyxia sustained major trauma that likely affected their ability to survive the avalanche.

    Primary researcher

    Jeff Boyd, Pascal Haegeli

    Related publications

    Boyd et al. (2009) Patterns of death among avalanche fatalities: a 21-year review. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 180(5), 507-512.

    Funding

    Self-funded

Recent publications

Wilderness Medical Society practice guidelines for prevention and management of avalanche and non-avalanche snow burial accidents

Journal PaperVulnerability & Rescue
Christopher Van Tilberg, Colin K. Grissom, Ken Zafren, Scott McIntosh, Martin I. Radwin, Peter Paal, Pascal Haegeli, William R. Smith, Albert R. Wheeler, David Weber, Bruce Tremper, Hermann Brugger
Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 28(1), 23-42.
Publication year: 2017

The effectiveness of avalanche airbags

Journal PaperVulnerability & Rescue
Pascal Haegeli, Markus Falk, Emily Procter, Benjamin Zweifel, Frederic Jarry, Spencer Logan, Kalle Kronholm, Marek Biskubic, Hermann Brugger
Resuscitation, 85(9), 1197-1203
Publication year: 2014

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