Some insight might be found in the research of Canada's own George Wilde, who in his book "Target Risk" lays out, in lay terms, the concept of risk homeostatis. According to this theory people tend to accept a roughly constant level of risk. When life gets too safe, we offset that by taking chances. In essence people tend to counteract expected changes in risk. One of the best things about this book is that is available free online at:
It might explain why transceivers and rules-based schemes, like antilock breaks and crosswalks, dont have the intended consequences.
The point I was trying to make is that one's decision-making on a BC tour should not be affected by the presence or absence of beacons. With only a 30-50% of being saved by your beacon if you are buried alive (small chance), would you really make any decision differently knowing that you were wearing one?
I sense that carrying a beacon has become something like a badge or credential that indicates competence and judgment. I'd suggest that we ought to consider some other way to indicate competence and preparation and judgment, particularly given the skant liklihood of beacon skills ever coming into play.
L - You still couldnt come without a transciever.
I get your point -but I think what you're really saying is some people have a false sense of security b/c of trascievers. Not much argument there - although from what I can tell you about Loveland pass with the 40 out 150 with transcievers is that there are plenty of people with false senses of security w/o transcievers as well as with. As I said in my email - if you read beyond the smart ass comment is the # 1 thing is terrain and conditions management.
But to say you wont wear any clothes because some people might think you cant freeze to death with clothes on and well heck the data about people freezing to death appears to show clothes as an ineffective mechanism to prevent is darn-right silly.
IN addition - Does everyone here think that there were only 12 skier related avalanche incidents in the US and Canada this year? Come on - the data being bandied IS NOT COMPLETE and therefore not representative of the efficacy of transcievers. Read those 12 reports -
they are the incidents that recieved law enforcement reporting because a rescue was required and/or a fatality occured. There were likely numerous others gone unreported - a signifcant number of which may have involved self rescue with transcievers. What about ski patrol incidents involving transciever rescue - where is that data?
Does everyone here think that there were only 12 skier related avalanche incidents in the US and Canada this year?
I certainly didn't think that to be the case. Those are just the fatal accidents. There are obviously many unreported incidents.
For some reason, they did not make decisions based on their knowledge and training. Instead they made choices that boggle the mind in trying to understand.
I agree completely, but have spoken at length to a friend who was in the group and inquiring about how they could have made that decision, we came to the following conclusions:
1) The timing of the forecasts and laziness on the part of the group resulted in no one accessing the most recent bulletin. They relied on an earlier bulletin that suggested an improving trend in stability. This was later revised. In essence they ignored the possibility of surface hoar and jumped to the conclusion that the slope would be stable enough because of the elapsed time since the storm. As it was explained to me when I suggested that not following the bulletin was a critical fault, "We all have jobs and busy lives..."
2) With the perception that the stability was improving, the group leader had already, most likely, decided which slope he wanted to ski that day, and it was the one that slid. Early on he stated the destination. What mental process the leader went through in reaching that conclusion, I have no idea.
3) The route of travel that was chosen to reach the destination was not one that allowed the group to test for stability on the slope that slid. In fact given the recent conditions, there is only one route that the group could have travelled to reach the destination that would have had the prospect of representing the suspect slope. That is not the route they chose, but the knowledge the group would have needed to have to understand what route would have given them that opportunity and why the suspect slope had conditions that were rare, was probably greater than what the group would have had. Nonetheless, it was a NE slope above 6000' and that was the critical text in the bulletin.
4) The group's snowpack observations in route, that were essentially irrelevant re-inforced the opinions of stability they already had and the leader's pre-determined choice of a ski route.
5) The choice of terrain was horrible. As I said before, I have thought that the particular slope in question is a particularly dangerous slope in winter conditions, owing to its aspect, angle and shape. For that reason I have used it as and example of a slope I wouldn't ski in winter. (I skied adjacent to that slope yesterday). Yet, one member of this party had skied the slope "6 or 7 times before".
6) Familiarity, the group leader gained comfort in the fact that "no natural avalnches were visible at the base of the slope" This contra-indication of safe conditions was seen as a indication of safe conditions because of his having previously seen debris beneath the bowl on other occasions and because of the colored glasses through which the leader in particular was seeing the slope.
7) Communication in the group was rather poor. At no point was the question asked, What do you think about skiing this slope given what we know? Instead the choice was made to ski an adjacent slope (the one I skied yesterday); and that gave the group even more confidence (even though it was irrelevant) in skiing the slope. Two people successfully skied the most dangerous line. The others triggered a slope between the most dangerous line and the "adjacent safe slope". This still involves descending a 37 degree convexity that runs across the bowl 150' from it's top. Although the remaining skiers spaced out and the leader had told them to "descend two at a time", different skiing speeds resulted in five being on the slope and on the hard slab at the same time. As the 5th hit the convexity, the slope slid.
So there you have it. That is the process that happened. Again, what isn't known is what process the leader went through in determining this was a reasonable choice on this Considerable hazard day.
David, you have jumped to a couple of errant conclusions:
I am not comfortable with dismissing these fatalities as terrain errors or overlooking a persistent weak layer in the snow.
Yet that was clearly a huge part in this accident. If you want a rule, try this one: "When there are known to be PWKL's in the snowpack, back off".
I am not comfortable with dismissing these fatalities as terrain errors or overlooking a persistent weak layer in the snow. Nor am I comfortable with throwing our hands in the air and saying there is nothing that can be done to cut down on these fatalities.
If you are trying to imply that that is what I'm doing or saying, then you have made a very poor judgement.
I want to be clear. I am not talking about zero fatalities, simply fewer.
Yet you criticize me for saying" I know this message will fall on deaf ears for some students. (bold added to emphasize the point that these two statements are the same)
I think tragedies like the Elderberry Canyon and Crystal Mountain incidents can be avoided. But only if we go beyond surface explanations like terrain selection and persistent weak layers and look to the deeper issues of why any highly trained person would have been on such slopes under such hazardous conditions. I think the answer will be found not on the cognitive (rationale) side of the human brain, but on the affective (emotional) side. Our courses therefore need to instruct not only the left half of our student's brains, but also the right.
Yet these were the big errors. The decisionmaking process that resulted in this accident clearly involved a value judgement as well as some poor decisions and poor group management. It also failed to understand consequences. The decisionmaking process, which is nearly complete in its presentation here, was very complex, but began with a predetermined plan or objective. Most processes after that initial decision were essentially justifications.
Tragically, it makes an effective case study to discuss human factors. It is one that most students have no trouble understanding. It's not airplanes....or...and there is no evidence of risk homeostasis. It's a little hard for me to believe that part of the leader's decisionmaking process went like this: Let's see, I want to have a little more excitement today so, since my risk isn't high enough, I'll ski this deadly bowl. Sometimes things just are and when we try to get a little too fancy in our analysis, we miss what really goes on. That doesn't mean we can't learn the most powerful of lessons by reviewing the real process.
I really hate to say this Gary but I've come to the conclusion that you seem to be particluarly adverse when other people present theories that are contrary to yours. This seems particularly evident in your last reply. (Let's see, I want to have a little more excitement today so, since my risk isn't high enough, I'll ski this deadly bowl..) You missed the boat. You have me shaking my head...
Maybe it is the way you word your replies or maybe it is even me but my feeling that there is an axe to grind. Hence your particular aversion to SnowSpider......Yes I criticize you too.
Take a real deep breath, open your mind, and accept that there are other opinions other than yours, that even though you dominate most posts, there are other very good ideas out there. I usually like to let you carry on with your thoughts as there are many good ones. You just gotta learn to respect the rest of us and not be so friggen defensive.
In a round about way, the only reason I'm here at all is so I can learn more, through an exchange of info from the comfort of my home, in my own time, at my time of choosing. The internet affords us that luxury. Sometimes you learn by explaining something as you have to figure it out for yourself. Sometimes an incident is posted or information exchanged that helps. Sometimes an idea is triggered or a thought confirmed. Other times someone comes up with something you didn't know. That's what you're really hoping for. Of course that's more likely to happen if highly qualified people feel this is a forum they want to invest their time in. I've met the top bananas in this game and realize that I will never know as much as they do and that's fine but I'm open to whatever I can pick up on. Sometimes it's just fun to shoot down bs.
Gary on the other hand appears to be here exclusively to teach as opposed to learn which is a shame because like many of us he too has a long ways to go. So if someone comes up with something he hasn't considered there's resistance. I also resent the type of posts that are likely to discourage more qualified contributors from coming on board and we all know what those are. Having said all that I take from Gary what I can and maybe subconciously he picks up something for himself.
I know it's marginal but the price is right. I can check out anytime I like.
Brilliant and informative posts, team Cambria-Snowspider,
So Cambria, your reply indicates that you got nothing from this analysis of the accident.
I really hate to say this Gary but I've come to the conclusion that you seem to be particluarly adverse when other people present theories that are contrary to yours.
You missed the boat. You have me shaking my head...
Instead of saying that, which is meaningless, why not add or dissect the accident that you now have as an opening to learning or the sharing of information. In otherwords, you are arguing against yourself.
Cambria, a challenge to you: Post something meaningful. You're playing defense.
As to risk homeostasis, I agree it exists, for some people. Yet, if I look in depth at my own decisions with introspection I think the term "risk homeostasis" is a broad generalization of a process that is more complex. As I said, in this accident there is no evidence that risk homeostasis was a driver. I think the real process that went on involved the desire to ski what the leader of the group deemed to be the best slope of the aspect that had the best chance to be good skiing in the area. Simple as that. Did he think that it was safe enough to ski the slope? Yes. If he perceived greater hazard than he did, would he have skied it? Probably not. But, in this case, he was not consciously increasing his risk. He was just trying and hoping to ski what for him, was the most desireable slope.
While you could overlay and fit the concept risk homeostasis onto this accident, it would be a poor fit. Sometimes we can make these things more complex than they are by attempting to categorize them. We categorize to try to understand what we can't otherwise understand. In this case the solution is much simpler. The attempt to categorize just adds another layer to the complexity of the puzzle.
Sometimes it's just fun to shoot down bs.
Gary on the other hand appears to be here to teach as opposed to learn which is a shame because like many of us he too has a long ways to go.
If you don't have anything to say other than personal attacks, SS, that is your problem. I'd rather see you reply to a rather interesting and complete accident report. But you're obviously only blowing smoke.
There you go again...... Take a deep breath and try to accept criticism. I do not know SnowSpider, but like him, I have worked (and still work) with the best, in training courses and in daily work activities. I like the fact SnowSpider acknowledges his humbleness and so do I.....I view everyday as an opportunity to learn and I acknowledge that in the grand scale of things, I probably don't know that much......seems to me the longer I am in this "biz" the more there is to learn.....go figure.
Your challenges to everyone who questions you suggests insecurity. (I sure hope DSpring ignores your map challenge. That seemed pretty immature to me.)
Contrary to what you believe I get alot out of this post as DSpring has an interesting view as do others, including you.
There have been two recent snowmobile fatalities here in BC. I will not even attempt to post anything because it would be highly speculative. I have posted several times of which you have never commented so either you don't read them or don't agree with them. I accept that. Your comment is off the mark.
I am not saying you spew BS but respect the fact it is TTips and I find it somewhat disconcerting that your view point is so dominating....you don;t seem to have a very open mind.
I wonder how much time you spend with your peers or is that you work in isolation? I am personally surrounded by other Professionals in a Professional environment and all view points are accepted and discussed openly. If SnowSpider worked at the CAA he too can probably relate to this openness.
Sorry my reply is meaningless but if it were me, I would try to learn from it. That was my intention but you obviously take it as a threat. I am not playing defensive as I don't feel I have anything to defend.
Ok then, Cambria I will assume your useful information is limited to personal attacks. You could have looked at the accident and shown how you would apply the six hours of human factors you have in your courses.
Again, Cambria, share, share, share....how do you interpret that accident in terms of human factors. It's called discussion.
Look, I've said numerous times that this thread has been very useful and informative. A few posts back I acknowledged as did David that we agree on many things as did he with me. Where I disagree is:
1) That there are many experienced people for whom it could be said that having a transceiver would cause them to make different choices than they would make otherwise, (and where there is high risk). I acknowledge that I might, under certain circumstances make a different judgement when having a transceiver when I judge the risk to be low. I suspect others would do the same.
2) I disagree with David's definitive statement that use of a map can keep one out of trouble because of the precision of maps. I don't find that from my own experience. I believe micro-routefinding en route by observation is far more significant excepting the case of summit climbs.
3) I also disagree with David's arguing that his interpretation of avalanche statistics was more accurate than Atkins or the Brabec study. Even if there are differences in risk assumption from one area or another, that is likely to account for but a small proportion of variation in statistics.
4) I disagree more with his method than his message, except regarding transceivers. At many points he stated opinions as though they were facts and went so far as to make statements concerning my agreement with him when that was not the case. There are plenty of examples.
I certainly agree with David that human factors are the biggest factors regarding recreational, and to a large degree, professional accidents. As to whether human factors training, which is a hot topic in the past 4-6 years, will be effective in significantly reducing accidents, school is still out. The statistics should bear this out in the next 3 years or so. That doesn't mean education shouldn't make every effort to reduce accidents in whichever arenas it can reach.
There have been some very good discussions on this topic, but when the attacks have turned negative and personal lately, little of value has been discussed.
As to risk homeostasis, I agree it exists, for some people. Yet, if I look in depth at my own decisions with introspection I think the term "risk homeostasis" is a broad generalization of a process that is more complex. As I said, in this accident there is no evidence that risk homeostasis was a driver.
Risk Homeostasis is a model. Models are simplifications of underlying complex processes. A model's utility is determined by how well it explains observed behavior. If it proves reliable, then it can be used to predict the success or failure of proposed schemes for acheiving an intended result. I doubt very much (although I am no psychologist) that risk homeostasis is intended to explain the actions of a single party on a single day. It is more suited to explain long run behavior captured in accident statisitcs. Such as the failure of the introduction of abs breaks in cars to reduce accidents. Or, maybe, that the widespread adoption of avalanche transceivers does not reduce avalanche fatalaties.
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 563 Location: Colorado Springs and Leadville
Posted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:20 pm Post subject:
A lot of interesting research has been done by cognitive psychologists on the subject of human reasoning and decision making. Researchers have discovered that human reasoning is subject to a variety of biases. For example, it has been demonstrated that people search for evidence that confirms their belief and ignore evidence that disconfirms their belief. The researchers call this the confirmation bias.
A good resource on the subject is Bias in Human Reasoning, Causes and Consequences", published in 1989, by Jonathan Evans. In the book he even discusses “negative event feedback.” “Feedback on probability judgments is tricky, since unless a prediction is made with a likelihood of 1 or 0, then no single outcome can disprove the forecast. Indeed, this may be one of the reasons that people do not appear to develop good intuitions about probability through real life experiences of risky events.” (p. 117)
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