I am looking for some sources that look at the changes in fatality or involvement rates of groups with and without avy training.
Basically I hear things like "80% of people who die in avalanches have taken an avalanche course," and I am doubtful.
I want something to convince me one way or the other,
It may be true that 80% of avalanche victims have had an avalanche course, but it is also true that those that take avalanche courses, teach avalanche courses, or work professionally in the ski industry are more active. Until statistics are created that relate accident involvement to the amount of exposure time, we will never be able to address your question definitively. I think it likely that people who have taken courses, etc. are much more active and spend much more time in avalanche terrain than more casual backcountry winter travelers.
Regardless, there is some wisdom in your quest, Snoboy. Avalanche education is in no way a free pass in the backcountry. It is what one does with one's knowledge not the knowledge itself that may make the biggest difference. This is, of course, the "human factor". It shows how important it is not to become overconfident or complacent, regardless of one's education or experience. The Durrand accident was a tragic example of the importance of this message. Over a long enough period of time, everyone is going to get surprised. The steps one takes to mitigate risk will tell the story in the long run.
Although I haven't been able to find the paper online, one of the best papers I've seen that addresses this issue was one McCammon's ISSW 2000 paper titled The Role of Training in Recreational Avalanche Accidents in the United States. The methodology of this study was to look retrospectively at 344 accidents where information was available. McCammon suggests that this study may not be valid for individuals not caught in accidents.
In the 344 accidents, MCammon found that,"30% of the groups had no formal training or awareness, 24% of the groups had at least one person with an awareness of the hazard, 31% had at least one person with formal basic training" (LI, AA Course, or RAC I assume), "and 14% had at least one person with advanced formal training" (LII or > I assume).
McCammon went on," Surprisingly, hazard scores" (review of these factors - High forecast, terrain trap, obvious path, recent avalanches, collapsing snow, recent wind loading, thaw instability) "show no significant reduction with increased training, and for victims with basic training formal training, actually increased. Apparently, avalanche training had little influence on where these people chose to"... [recreate].
However Mccammon found that people with more education took more measures (wearing beacons, shovels, not alone, had a plan, minimized exposure, maintained communication with one another) to mitigate their exposure. Recreationists with no training "failed to take any significant precautions other than not traveling alone, since they probably did not recognize the hazard. Other training categories show a uniform increase in almost all of the mitigation measures. Note that the improvement is not simply due to carrying more gear; victims with more training were actually engaged in a higher incidence of behavioral mitigation:... "than victims with less training".
McCammon concludes that, "the overall risks taken by recreational victims does in fact decrease with training suggesting that avalanche education correlates with a decrease in the accident rate among recreationalists.(my bold)
He does warn that the thought process more experienced indiviuals use tends to be more broadly based, whereas the less experienced and those with avalanche awareness and basic training may fall victim to "heuristics", addressed in the other paper you cited, Snoboy.
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 286 Location: BC Kootenays...
Posted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 11:17 pm Post subject:
That would be the paper that I mentioned in my original post, if you need a source of it online... The paper titled "Evidence Of Heuristic Traps In Recreational Avalanche Accidents" is also available from www.snowpit.com
Sorry about that! Since that paper was a download and I have a copy of it, I didn't download it. I figured you were referencing the more widely available paper on "Heuristics" from ISSW 2002.
I don't think there is anything more definitive at this point in time than the 2000 McCammon paper. There is also some work by Dale Atkins of CAIC, but I don't think it addresses training to as great a degree as the McCammon paper.
I think jesseys report and conclusion are better than McCammon's. jesseys is based on more recent data that reflects the rapid rise in BC skiing over the past two year. Her sample "pool" is much larger and better quantified. McCammons data may actually be "old" (probably 95-2000) and based on "old" data and less skiers. While McCammons is based more on psychology, jessey is based soley on statistical stuff
....and the conclusion are strikingly different in regards to training and expereince. jessey's report hit hard.
I think a problem with Jessey's study (which she acknowledges herself) is that it has data on number of accidents and how experienced (including the level of training) the respondents are now. It doesn't have data on how experienced the respondents were when an accident took place.
Thanks, Arno. I was going to go back and read the Jessey paper again. there are as yet no statistics that demonstrate the amount of training, level of experience, and whether or not avalanche forecasts were accessed at the time of the accident (which is a measure of avalanche awareness).
Those who ski a lot or work in the industry are exposed much more than the average recreationalist. Since these individuals take their sport (or their work) seriously, they are much more likely to have taken classes and they are also more likely to have been in avalanches over time.
It is also very likely that those who have taken classes have made the decision that the risks are worth it to recreate in avalanche terrain. But they want to be knowledgeable. To a greater or lesser degree these folks are classic "risk takers". I'm one of them. Yet, I want to be in control of my level of risk and to do that I need to be as educated about avalanches...or climbing as possible.
What is missing in all statistics thus far is the rate of accidents and the severity of those accidents (consequences) at a given level of education and experience. For that reason, because it looks at psychology, I find the McCammon findings most realistic.
What we are dealing with are classic "human factors". Avalanche education needs to find a fine balance between detailing the risks, and of understanding and being prepared for the unexpected (in terms of both conditions and the possibility of dealing with an accident) without discouraging participation in the sport(s). Elimination of accidents cannot be the realistic goal of avalanche education; education can only hope to make people aware of the risks and help them not to make obvious mistakes, and in that way minimize avoidable accidents.
Joined: 08 Dec 2004 Posts: 496 Location: Evergreen, CO
Posted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 4:04 am Post subject:
Okay, so I sat down with a highlighting pen and McCammon's paper. Bear with me.
On Page 4, Table 2 indicates that, among those with advanced training, the number of accidents where social proof cues were PRESENT totaled 8. Then, among those with advanced training, the number of accidents where social proof cues were ABSENT totaled 16. I thereby conclude that there were twice as many accidents when social proof cues were absent. Does that sound correct? Absence of social proof cues = more accidents among those with advanced training. Sounds like "herd mentality" has much less influence on those with advanced training.
On page 5, table 4 indicates a total of 29 accidents where scarcity was PRESENT and a total of 120 accidents where scarcity was ABSENT. Scarcity means "no tracks." So, there were 20 accidents with no tracks and 120 accidents with tracks. Four times as many accidents in areas with tracks. Ergo, tracks = higher incidence of accidents. So then, how does "powder fever" result in a greater likelihood of accidents?
I'm curious about everyone's individual conclusions about the above data.
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