Pascal Haegeli, Luke Strong-Cvetich, Wolfgang Haider
Proceedings of 2012 International Snow Science Workshop in Anchorage, AK, 800-806
Publication year: 2012


Over the last five winters, mountain snowmobilers accounted for 53% (41 of 77) of all recreational avalanche fatalities in Canada, which is a significant increase from the 28% (18 of 64) during the previous five winters. This trend clearly highlights the need for the Canadian avalanche community to improve avalanche awareness among this user group. Creating an in-depth understanding of the perspectives, needs and challenges of mountain snowmobilers is an important first step in the development of more appropriate risk communication and prevention strategies. This paper presents preliminary results from an extensive online survey on mountain snowmobiling and avalanche awareness that was conducted in British Columbia during the 2011/2012 winter season. The survey included a series of discrete choice experiments, a stated preference technique, to examine how snowmobilers adjust their riding preferences as new avalanche hazard information becomes available during different stages of typical backcountry trips. The analysis revealed that participating snowmobilers interpret danger ratings on a linear scale and that the presence of a persistent avalanche problem does not affect their riding choices. Furthermore, under increasing avalanche danger, snowmobilers first gravitate towards areas with higher snowmobile traffic before they avoid complex and challenging avalanche terrain. The analysis also showed that instability observations (i.e..whumpfs) affect riding choices more than other relevant observations. The results of this study can help to develop evidence-based avalanche safety initiatives that effectively target existing weaknesses in the avalanche safety behavior of mountain snowmobilers.