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Click here to download Anneliese’s paper.
Over the past two decades, there has been tremendous growth in winter backcountry recreation, challenging the traditional ways in which recreationists are understood, characterized, and communicated to. Research shows an in-depth understanding of the target audience is critical for effective risk communication. Audience segmentation, a technique commonly used to understand target audiences, divides heterogeneous populations into smaller, more homogenous, segments based on relevant characteristics. This study illustrates how audience segmentation can offer a richer and more holistic picture of the backcountry community for the improvement, design, and evaluation of targeted avalanche safety initiatives. The sample comes from the Euregio and Swiss avalanche forecast research panels (N=7277) and two segmentation approaches were used to demonstrate the value of the method. First, we performed latent class analysis with participants’ level of avalanche safety training, experience, and risk mitigation practices to identify four competency profiles: limited, rudimentary, foundational, and developed. From the limited to developed profile, training and risk mitigation increased, however no consistent pattern emerged for experience. Second, we explored two potential at-risk groups with a more targeted segmentation approach and found that some recreationists’ risk mitigation practices may be poorly matched to the terrain they expose themselves to and experiences they seek. The methods in this study can be leveraged by forecasting agencies interested in gaining a better sense of who is accessing their services and how they could be better supported, and overall demonstrates the benefits of a more user-centric and evidenced-based approach to avalanche risk communication.