Pascal Haegeli, Wolfgang Haider, Margo Longland, Ben Beardmore
Natural Hazards, 52(1), 185-209
Publication year: 2010


Avalanches pose a serious threat to recreational backcountry travelers in mountainous terrain. This study explores how the three main amateur user groups of avalanche terrain in western Canada (backcountry skiers, out-of-bound skiers, and snowmobile riders) balance recreational goals with safety concerns when choosing backcountry destinations under varying avalanche conditions. Using a discrete choice experiment (DCE), a stated preference technique, the study first examines the strengths and weaknesses in the decision process of the three amateur groups by comparing their responses with the choice patterns of professional mountain guides. The results show that the decision-making strategies employed by the respective amateur groups vary considerably in their level of complexity and the degree to which avalanche safety considerations are incorporated. Second, we examine the effects of a decision aid that preprocesses the most crucial pieces of avalanche hazard information on the decision preferences of the amateur groups in the DCE. The results show that a relatively simple decision aid can influence the decision-making process considerably and steer users towards more avalanche hazard sensitive behaviour.