Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

On the correlation between the forecast avalanche danger and avalanche risk taken by backcountry skiers in Switzerland


Winkler, Kurt; Schmudlach, Günter; Degraeuwe, Bart; Techel, Frank (2021). On the correlation between the forecast avalanche danger and avalanche risk taken by backcountry skiers in Switzerland. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 188:103299.

Abstract

Rule-based decision frameworks are widely recommended to estimate the avalanche risk while planning a ski tour. However, these frameworks were developed relying primarily on accident data and usually did not consider backcountry travel data. Hence, they are not risk-based. Here, we address this gap and calculate the risk taken during backcountry touring in avalanche terrain and correlate it to the expected avalanche conditions as described in a public avalanche forecast. For this, we rely on 784 reported avalanche accidents and more than 2.1 million movement points in potential avalanche terrain, based on GPS tracks recorded in Switzerland for 14 winter seasons. Combining this data with the respective avalanche forecast, we show that risk increases fourfold from danger level 1-Low to 2-Moderate, and from 2-Moderate to 3-Considerable. Furthermore, at 2-Moderate and 3-Considerable, in the critical elevations and aspects specified in the avalanche forecast, the risk is nearly six times higher compared to locations outside this, so-called, core zone. For danger level 1-Low, where the Swiss avalanche forecast does not provide any information about the critical elevations and aspects, we derived a risk-based core zone. Within this core zone too, the risk is about six times higher than outside. These findings suggest an adaption of the rule-based decision frameworks to reflect the observed risk better. The proposed framework considers the strong influence of the elevation and reduces the effect of the aspect, compared to former decision frameworks. We emphasize that this new decision framework cannot replace on-site risk assessment. However, it allows backcountry users to come closer to the goal of achieving a minimum of avalanche risk while allowing a maximum of freedom of movement.

Abstract

Rule-based decision frameworks are widely recommended to estimate the avalanche risk while planning a ski tour. However, these frameworks were developed relying primarily on accident data and usually did not consider backcountry travel data. Hence, they are not risk-based. Here, we address this gap and calculate the risk taken during backcountry touring in avalanche terrain and correlate it to the expected avalanche conditions as described in a public avalanche forecast. For this, we rely on 784 reported avalanche accidents and more than 2.1 million movement points in potential avalanche terrain, based on GPS tracks recorded in Switzerland for 14 winter seasons. Combining this data with the respective avalanche forecast, we show that risk increases fourfold from danger level 1-Low to 2-Moderate, and from 2-Moderate to 3-Considerable. Furthermore, at 2-Moderate and 3-Considerable, in the critical elevations and aspects specified in the avalanche forecast, the risk is nearly six times higher compared to locations outside this, so-called, core zone. For danger level 1-Low, where the Swiss avalanche forecast does not provide any information about the critical elevations and aspects, we derived a risk-based core zone. Within this core zone too, the risk is about six times higher than outside. These findings suggest an adaption of the rule-based decision frameworks to reflect the observed risk better. The proposed framework considers the strong influence of the elevation and reduces the effect of the aspect, compared to former decision frameworks. We emphasize that this new decision framework cannot replace on-site risk assessment. However, it allows backcountry users to come closer to the goal of achieving a minimum of avalanche risk while allowing a maximum of freedom of movement.

Statistics

Citations

Altmetrics

Downloads

4 downloads since deposited on 17 May 2021
4 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Avalanche risk Avalanche forecast Decision framework Backcountry touring Core zone
Language:English
Date:1 August 2021
Deposited On:17 May 2021 12:23
Last Modified:17 May 2021 12:23
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0165-232X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coldregions.2021.103299

Download

Hybrid Open Access

Download PDF  'On the correlation between the forecast avalanche danger and avalanche risk taken by backcountry skiers in Switzerland'.
Preview
Content: Published Version
Filetype: PDF
Size: 8MB
View at publisher
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)