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Mountain Snowmobilers and Avalanches: An Examination of Precautionary Behaviour

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In response to the marked rise of snowmobile avalanche fatalities and the tragic season of 2008-2009, the BC Coroner’s Death Review Panel convened to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accidents. One of the overarching conclusions of the panel was that a more collective effort is needed to build greater awareness and create a culture of avalanche safety within the snowmobiling community. Since there was limited information available on mountain snowmobilers, an in-depth understanding of their motivations, attitudes and preferences was identified as a necessary step in the effort to address their needs. The goals of this study were to gain a better understanding of the general characteristics of mountain snowmobilers (e.g. demographics, snowmobile characteristics, experience, training, trip details, etc.), and identify what factors affect their avalanche risk perception and how they adjust their terrain preferences in response to avalanche information. This study also investigated potential barriers that prevent snowmobilers from taking a formal avalanche course or checking the avalanche bulletin. The use of a Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE) investigated the terrain preference tradeoffs snowmobilers make in response to avalanche information. In addition to the DCE, this research used the Risk Information Seeking and Processing model (RISP) to identify potential factors that may influence avalanche risk information-seeking in the context of taking an avalanche course and checking the avalanche bulletin. Results from this study provide valuable information for the continued development of snowmobile specific avalanche safety material.
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