Thursday, 22 November 2012 00:00

Study: Skiers and Backcountry Skiers Underrate the Risk of Avalanches

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Risk of Avalanches is Often Underrated by Skiers and Backcountry Skiers

11/22/2012, Vienna, Austria: According to a study of the Johannes Kepler University Linz and the University for ground culture (Boku) 40% of the requested persons rate the risk of an avalanche wrong and show a high readiness to assume risk.


The two year taking study asked the 1466 participants to estimate the danger of an avalanche on different mountains faces and compared these to official avalanche warning systems and three in Austria used risk management concepts for evaluating risks of avalanches.

Except having a 40% deviation when comparing the estimations of the participants for the risk of avalanches and the objective danger, the comparison with the risk management concepts had a lot of accordance. The highest accordance between the estimations of the participants and the concepts was with 72% in the “Avalanche-Scout Method”, 66% with the “Reduction Method” and 60% with the “Stop-or-Go Method”.

In reverse this means according with the scientist Elisabeth Adler of the institute for statistic that many skiers would take extremely dangerous faces. Especially faces with 40 degrees, wet snow and avalanche warning 4.

All three used comparing concepts (Stop-or-Go, Avalanche-Scout, Reduction Method) try to reduce the risk of avalanches and its estimation to make easy to interpret results for backcountry skiers and skiers. Risk evaluation and rating the danger of avalanches in faces are highly complex and need a great knowledge of the single factors that may lead to an avalanche. These methods should give the skier or backcountry skier the easiest possibility of making a decision. But these estimation systems are defective, because of many factors that need an own interpretation and estimation by the skier.

Especially when the risk of an avalanche is in the middle of avalanche risk scale, the chance of a wrong estimation is high.

The estimation systems for the danger of avalanches on single faces are less or more restrivtive. That can lead in both cases to wrong estimations.

Also worth to point out is the by the study asserted readiness to assume risks of experienced winter athletes, skiing instructors and mountain guides. Even persons that have been covered by an avalanche would have shown a high readiness to assume risks.

“There with our study shows that still a lot of consciousness education is necessary”, states Elisabeth Adler of the Johannes Kepler University.



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