Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Preemptive Decision Making in Backcountry Skiing: Diversifying Risk Management Strategies in Complex Environments
by Keogh, Blake, M.A., Prescott College, 2014, 112; 1583767
Abstract (Summary)

The backcountry skiing population has increased significantly over the past ten years. Current sales of backcountry ski and rescue gear outpace more traditional alpine, telemark, and snowboarding equipment. As higher numbers of people head into avalanche terrain more fatal accidents are occurring, human triggered avalanches being the primary cause of death. In the late 1980s there were an average of 11 avalanche related deaths per year in the United States. That number has risen to an average of 30 over the past five years. Over that time avalanche specific rescue gear has been quick to adapt to the changing needs of backcountry skiers. However, over that same period of time theoretical approaches to risk management have been slow to adjust to the community's changing needs. Consequently, this study examined the preemptive decisions and the risk perceptions skiers held as they prepared to enter Tuckerman Ravine. Results show that 69% of the survey population did not have formal avalanche training. Despite significant technological advances 56% of the survey population did not have everyone in their group carry a beacon, shovel and probe. Fifty-one percent of the survey population strongly disagreed with frequent beacon practice. However, a skier was more likely to practice with their beacon if they had taken a formal avalanche course. Women were less likely to feel as though the trip were a failure if goals were not met. Additionally, the underrepresentation of women in this study (n=4) required an assessment of broader gender disparities within the backcountry skiing community. Quantitative and qualitative results show a lack of female leadership among recreational backcountry skiers. This leadership gap limits mentoring opportunities and decreases accessibility to the community for novice female backcountry skiers. The lack of gender diversification has significant affects on the decision-making process. This study concludes that dual-process cognitive methods and multilayered risk management protocols can increase margins of safety and encourage diverse perspectives within the larger backcountry skiing community. This paper suggests that because backcountry skiing involves the interconnection between complex adaptive systems and complex physical systems skiers should adopt a systems thinking approach to their decision-making processes.

Keywords: Systems thinking, avalanches, dual-process cognition, complexity, preemptive decision making, risk management, female backcountry leadership, risk perception, human triggered avalanches.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wynn, Tiffany
Commitee: Mitten, Denise, Reardon, Blase
School: Prescott College
Department: Adventure Education
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 54/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Physical education, Kinesiology, Public policy
Keywords: Avalanches, Complexity, Dual-process cognition, Preemptive decision making, Risk management, Systems thinking, Tuckerman Ravine
Publication Number: 1583767
ISBN: 9781321555882
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