Snowshoers Not Avy-Savvy

Compared to other snowsport lovers, snowshoers are more likely to miscalculate avalanche risk

You never think of snowshoers as daredevils, but here come science to prove us wrong: Snowshoers are 7 times more likely to underestimate avalanche danger in the backcountry.

University of Utah researchers conducted an "objective risk assessment" study across several snowsports—backcountry skiing, backcountry snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, out-of-bounds skiing, and out-of-bounds snowboarding—to compare their ability to estimate avalanche danger. I would've expected cliff-hucking skiers or boarders to take the cake, but even after controlling for participants who'd taken avy safety courses, the results stayed the same.

Snowmobilers came in as second-least avy-savvy, but not by much after adjusting for avalanche course experience. There was a slight trend for women and older age groups to underestimate avalanche danger, but the difference was too slight for the researchers to recommend any action.

The scientists suggest that snowshoers and snowmobilers be targeted for avalanche education and awareness, since they might unknowingly walk into dangerous avy territory.

I just knew the adrenaline-filled, white-knuckle sport of snowshoeing was due for a devil-may-care makeover. Maybe this means Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research will open up snowshoe film divisions?

—Ted Alvarez

Risk assessment in winter backcountry travel (PubMed)

Image Credit: Tombthebomb

Thanks, Christopher