Snow avalanches claim about 10 lives in Canada every year, more than any other natural hazard. Most victims are private backcountry recreationists (e.g., skiers, snowmobilers, mountaineers) making their own decisions, but avalanches also threaten villages, utility lines, resource operations and cause traffic hazard and economic loss by blocking highways and railways.

Avalanche research programs have traditionally primarily taken a snow science/engineering perspective, but the SFU Avalanche Research Program (SARP) aims to approach the topic of avalanche safety more broadly to better understand the interplay of all components affecting avalanche risk and develop innovative solutions for managing it more effectively.

This website provides you with access to the research portfolio of Dr. Pascal Haegeli, who holds the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management and leads the Avalanche Research Program in the School for Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, Canada.

2023 ISSW

Click here for our 2023 ISSW papers.

Research Objective

Interdisciplinary research and development for improved avalanche safety

Our research interests lie at the interface between the natural and social sciences, and our objective is to conduct interdisciplinary research and develop evidence-based tools that assist backcountry recreationists and avalanche professionals to make better informed decisions when preparing for and travelling in avalanche terrain.

To address these challenges, we work closely with our partners in the Canadian avalanche community and employ research approaches and methods from a wide variety of fields including atmospheric science, snow science, geography, GIS, risk analysis, decision-making science, communication, psychology, sociology, accident analysis, public health and medicine.

Click here for more information on our research areas.

Research Tools

Click here to check out the standardized background questions we developed for avalanche safety surveys.

Meet the Team

Click here to meet our current team.

Latest Publications

Improving the applicability of large-scale distributed snowpack simulations for operational use in avalanche forecasting

Hazard AssessmentThesis
Florian Herla
PhD thesis, 2023-10. Department of Geography, Faculty of Environment. Simon Fraser University, Surrey, B.C.
Publication year: 2023

Designing for ambiguity in sensemaking: Visual analytics in risk analysis and prediction

Hazard AssessmentThesis
Stan Nowak
PhD thesis, 2023-08. School of Interactive Arts and Technology. Simon Fraser University, Surrey, B.C.
Publication year: 2023

A large-scale validation of snowpack simulations in support of avalanche forecasting focusing on critical layers

Hazard AssessmentJournal PaperUnder public review
Florian Herla, Pascal Haegeli, Simon Horton, and Patrick Mair
EGUsphere [preprint],
Publication year: 2023

Automated snow avalanche release area delineation in data sparse, remote, and forested regions

Journal PaperTerrain Management
John Sykes, Pascal Haegeli and Yves Bühler
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 3247–3270,
Publication year: 2022

Click here for a full listing of SARP publications.