Examining backcountry recreationists’ understanding and use of the avalanche danger scale: insights from qualitative interviews and responses to an online survey

Danger scales use a combination of colours, words, and severity levels to efficiently communicate basic hazard information to a target audience. Avalanche warning services around the world use a colour-coded, five-level danger scale to communicate the severity of snow avalanche conditions to recreational backcountry users. While past research has primarily focused on helping forecasters produce accurate danger levels, there has been relatively little research on recreationists’ comprehension and use of danger ratings. This research proposes an analysis of existing interview and survey data to identify themes and patterns in recreationists’ perceptions of the avalanche danger scale. The identified strengths and weaknesses of the current communication strategy will offer evidence-based recommendations to improve communication of the danger scale. Given the widespread use of danger scales in other settings of our daily lives, our results will also be of interest to the broader risk communication community.

Faculty Supervisor:

Pascal Haegeli


Abby Morgan


Avalanche Canada


Environmental sciences


Arts, entertainment and recreation


Simon Fraser University



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