During the past week, Jordy Hendrikx has been working on Svalbard for UNIS. On his way back to Montana, he stopped over in Tromsø for one night and gave a talk at the CARE avalanche seminar series.
Jordy talked about his collaborative work with Jerry Johnson (professor in political science at Montana State University) on how we can gain new knowledge from the geographical footprints of skiers (and snowmobilers) in the mountains. You can read more about his work here, and here, and see the films that were shown during the talk on the snow science youtube channel. Together with Powder magazine, Jordy has created the multimedia site Human factor 2.0, which is definitely worth a read.
The inspiring talk gave rise to a large number of interesting questions from the audience. What do we do if we are touring with a group of people, and we realize that we are more or less drifting towards taking greater risks than planned? Are there differences in ski culture between different places that affect risk exposure? Do temporary visitors to an area take greater risks than residents? How can the research that we are doing help skiers to better manage risks?
Neither Jordy, or I, of course holds the full answers to those questions, but I think that the resulting discussion was enlightning.
On the question on what to do if we are in a group, and we feel that we are drifting towards greater risk exposure, Jordy suggested that we stop and dig a snow pit. Digging may reveal important things in the snow, but the most important thing is just to stop and gather the group. This will most likely give rise to a discussion about the joint decisions to be made, and reduce the risk of just continuing with out a proper decision.
The research that Jordy and Jerry has previously carried out, and the work that we will do together in the future, will help us identify what the main factors that contributes to excessive risk exposure are, and in which groups that these factors are mostly present. When we know this, avalanche education can be better adjusted to the needs of different groups, and thereby more efficient in reducing avalanche accidents. We also hope that our research will help skiers, who do not enroll in avalanche courses, to become aware of risk factors that apply specifically to them, and thereby be better able to mitigate those factors. Finally, when we have identified risk factors, we will be able to test if different types of interventions work to reduce excessive risk exposure.
I found Jordy’s talk immensely inspiring, and I hope (and think) that the rest of the audience did too. We hope that his talk gave rise to a lot of thoughts on the subject, and to a willingness to contribute to our research by participating in the SkiTracks program, and in our surveys.
You can sign up for SkiTracks here.
To participate in our first survey (project 1.0) on risk exposure and social interaction, you just follow this link (in Norwegian, an English version will come out during fall 2017).