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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-57
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-57
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 25 Mar 2019

Research article | 25 Mar 2019

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

Exploring the relationship between avalanche hazard and large-scale terrain choices at a helicopter skiing operation – Insight from run list ratings

Reto Sterchi1, Pascal Haegeli1, and Patrick Mair2 Reto Sterchi et al.
  • 1School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada
  • 2Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Abstract. While guides in mechanized skiing operations use a well-established terrain selection process to limit their exposure to avalanche hazard and keep the residual risk at an acceptable level, the relationship between the open/closed status of runs and environmental factors is complex and has so far only received limited attention from research. Using a large data set of over 25 000 operational run list codes from a mechanized skiing operation, we applied a general linear mixed effects model to explore the relationship between acceptable skiing terrain (i.e., status open) and avalanche hazard conditions. Our results show that the magnitude of the effect of avalanche hazard on run list codes depends on the type of terrain that is being assessed by the guiding team. Ski runs in severe alpine terrain with steep lines through large avalanche slopes are much more susceptible to increases in avalanche hazard than less severe terrain. However, our results also highlight the strong effects of recent skiing on the run coding and thus the importance of prior first-hand experience. Expressing these relationships numerically provides an important step towards the development of meaningful decision aids, which can assist commercial operations to manage their avalanche risk more effectively and efficiently.

Reto Sterchi et al.
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Short summary
Mechanized skiing operations use an established process to select skiing terrain with a low risk level. However, the relationship between acceptable skiing terrain and avalanche hazard conditions has only received limited research attention. Our study examines this relationship numerically for the first time and shows the effects of avalanche hazard, previous skiing and previous acceptability on different types of skiing terrain and offers the foundation to develop evidence-based decision tools.
Mechanized skiing operations use an established process to select skiing terrain with a low risk...
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