Having a clear understanding of how recreationists consume and incorporate avalanche safety information into planning their backcountry travel is a critical component for designing effective avalanche risk communication messages. Yet, there has been little research to date that has specifically examined the information processing behaviors of those heading into the mountains in the winter to recreate. To systematically explore this research gap, we conducted 48 semi-structured, hour-long individual interviews with a variety of backcountry users and ran a detailed interactive online survey, which was completed by more than 3000 backcountry users from the United States and Canada. In this presentation, we will present the key patterns that emerged from these two rich datasets and provide insight into how recreationists use, understand and apply the information provided in avalanche bulletins. While some patterns are in line with expectations, there are interesting findings that reveal actionable opportunities for improvement. Our results highlight opportunities for making avalanche bulletins more comprehensible and more targeted in their design for the intended use.
With a master’s degree in Resource and Environmental Management with the Simon Fraser University Avalanche Research Program (SARP) in Vancouver, British Columbia and with a decade-long career in the backcountry as a guide, educator, and snow safety director, Anne has developed a broad range of research interests at the intersection of human behavior and natural hazards. Specifically, her interests include examining the effectiveness of operational risk management practices, education curriculum, and public risk communication products in the avalanche context. For her master’s research, Anne evaluated how public avalanche bulletins are being used by backcountry recreationists to offer evidence-based solutions for how bulletin products could resonate more effectively. This winter, Anne is excited to be joining the team at Avalanche Canada as a public avalanche forecaster in Revelstoke, British Columbia.