Managing the physical risk from avalanche in mechanized backcountry skiing operations: A quantitative examination of reoccurring patterns in terrain assessments and terrain use at the run scale

In the backcountry, avalanche risk is managed by first assessing avalanche hazard and subsequently carefully choosing terrain and travel procedures accordingly to mitigate the identified hazard. What are suitable terrain choices under different types of avalanche conditions and how are choices made? With this project, we quantitatively examine large-scale terrain choices in two commercial backcountry skiing operations in British Columbia. Our data set covers four resp. sixteen winter seasons with documented operational decisions on where to ski. It provides a unique opportunity for examining professional terrain choices to keep the residual risk at an acceptable level while providing a high quality skiing product. In this first study, we will examine patterns in ski run choices and subsequently analyze the terrain characteristics of different runs. The results of this study will improve our understanding of risk management through terrain selection and will strengthen current best-practises in the avalanche industry.

Reto Sterchi
Faculty Supervisor: 
Pascal Haegeli
British Columbia
Partner University: