In Avalanche Education, New Focus on Human Factors

January 18, 2013

As more people are heading into the backcountry, avalanche educators say they’re finding new ways to help recreationists stay alive in avalanche terrain.

Where backcountry safety education once stressed the mechanics of avalanches and snow science, training courses now incorporate a focus on human factors such as how to make better decisions, manage group dynamics and speak up should danger arise.

Avalanche educators are borrowing an approach pilots use to communicate to help backcountry enthusiasts make better decisions.

Nationwide, 34 skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, climbers and hikers died in avalanches during the 2011-12 winter season. Already this season, four people have died, including a 37-year-old man killed Sunday in Colorado.

Experts say human factors such as lack of communication and social pressure play a role in some of these fatalities.

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