The development of effective avalanche accident prevention initiatives requires a good quantitative knowledge of avalanche risks, how different factors affecting it and an understanding of how low the level of risk is that we are willing to accept. Critical questions to know include ‘What is the risk of being involved in an avalanche accident per day of backcountry activity?’, ‘How effective are existing avalanche risk management approaches?’, ”Are there particular pattern in avalanche accidents that offer hints for developing targeted prevention initiatives?’, and ‘What is giving us the biggest bang for the buck for reducing avalanche fatalities?’.

Our objective in this research area is to objectively quantify the risk involved in travel in avalanche terrain and contribute to the knowledge for making evidence-based decision on avalanche safety initiatives.

Research projects

Current projects

  • Risk in mechanized skiing

    What is the overall risk of injury or death in mechanized skiing?


    Avalanches are the biggest risk in commercial helicopter and snowcat backcountry skiing in Canada. In the last two decades, approximately 2/3 of all fatalities in the mechanized skiing resulted from avalanche accidents. While there has been considerable research into the risk from avalanches, our quantitative understanding of the risks associated with other hazards is limited. An in-depth understanding of the magnitude of the various risks and their changes over time are critical for mechanized skiing operators to manage their operational risks more effectively. The objective of this research project is to comprehensively quantify the risks associated with helicopter and snowcat skiing and develop an industry-wide incident and near miss database to enable the monitoring, identification and evidence-based evaluation of risks in mechanized skiing operations.

    Primary researcher

    Matthias Walcher

    Related publications

    In preparation

    Industrial partner

    HeliCat Canada


    MITACS Accelerate in partnership with HeliCat Canada

Relevant past projects

  • Avalanche Accidents in Canada Vol. 5: 1996-2007

    What are the patterns and trends in fatal avalanche accidents in Canada?


    Accounts of avalanche accidents can provide valuable insight on existing weaknesses in avalanche risk management approach and offer important lessons for how to get better. The Canadian avalanche community has a long tradition of documenting fatal avalanche accidents in Canada. The objective of this project was to compile detailed accounts of all fatal avalanche accidents in Canada between 1996 and 2007 and highlight any trends and patterns.

    Primary researchers

    Bruce Jamieson, Pascal Haegeli, Dave Gauthier

    Related publications

    Jamieson, B., Haegeli, P., and Gauthier, D. (2010). Avalanche Accidents in Canada Volume 5: 1996 – 2007. Canadian Avalanche Association, Revelstoke BC, Canada. 413p. (click here for an online version of the Trends & Pattern chapter)

    Industry partner

    Canadian Avalanche Association


    Canadian Avalanche Association

Recent publications

Risk of death and major injury from natural winter hazards in helicopter and snowcat skiing in Canada

Accidents & RiskJournal Paper
Matthias Walcher, Pascal Haegeli and Sven Fuchs
Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 30(3), 251-259. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2019.04.007
Publication year: 2019

Quantitative Assessment of Risks Involved in Mechanized Skiing in Canada

Accidents & RiskThesis
Matthias Walcher
MSc Thesis in Water Management and Environmental Engineering - Mountain Risk Engineering, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria.
Publication year: 2017

Research on personal risk in outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism

Accidents & RiskEditorialJournal Paper
Pascal Haegeli, Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider
Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Publication year: 2016

Click here for a complete listing of publications on this research topic.