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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2018-209
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 02 Aug 2018

Research article | 02 Aug 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Deriving customized terrain classes for avalanche risk management in mechanized skiing operations from operational terrain assessments

Reto Sterchi and Pascal Haegeli Reto Sterchi and Pascal Haegeli
  • School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada

Abstract. An in-depth understanding of the nature of the available terrain and its exposure to avalanche hazard is crucial for making informed risk management decisions when travelling in the backcountry. While the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) is broadly used for providing recreationists with terrain information, this type of terrain classification has so far only seen limited adoption within the professional ski guiding community. We hypothesize that it is the generic nature and small number of terrain classes of ATES and its precursor systems that prevent them from offering professional decision makers meaningful assistance. Working with two mechanized skiing operations in British Columbia, Canada, we present a new approach for deriving terrain classifications from daily terrain assessment records. We used a combination of self-organizing maps and hierarchical clustering to identify groups of ski runs that have been assessed similarly in the past and organized them into operation-specific terrain hierarchies. We then examined the nature of the emerging terrain hierarchies using comprehensive run characterizations from experienced guides. Our approach produces high-resolution terrain hierarchies that offer a more nuanced and meaningful perspective on the available skiing terrain and provide new opportunities for examining professional avalanche risk management practices and developing meaningful decision aids.

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Reto Sterchi and Pascal Haegeli
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Reto Sterchi and Pascal Haegeli
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Short summary
We used a revealed preference approach and identified patterns in risk management decisions of mechanized skiing operations. Our results show that terrain choices of experienced guides depend on a much broader set of factors beyond just the avalanche hazard including skiing experience or accessibility due to weather. The identified high-resolution terrain hierarchies provide new opportunities for examining professional avalanche risk management practices and developing meaningful decision aids.
We used a revealed preference approach and identified patterns in risk management decisions of...
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