Powder Fever and Its Impact on Decision-Making in Avalanche Terrain

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We examined the effect of emotions, associated with “powder fever”, on decision-making in avalanche terrain. Background: Skiing in avalanche terrain is a voluntary activity that exposes the participant to potentially fatal risk. Impaired decision-making in this context can therefore have devastating results, often with limited prior corrective feedback and learning opportunities. Previous research has suggested that arousal caused by emotions affects risk assessment and intentions to engage in risky behavior. We propose that powder fever may induce similar responses. Methods: We used the following two experimental methods: laboratory studies with visual visceral stimuli (ski movies) and a field study with real stimuli (skiing exciting terrain). We evaluated the effect of emotions on attention, risk assessment, and willingness to expose oneself and others to risk. Results: Both the laboratory studies and the field study showed that skiing-related stimuli had a relatively strong effect on reported emotions. However, we found very few significant effects on decision-making or assessment of risk. Conclusions: Skiing activities make people happier. However, despite the clear parallels to sexual arousal, powder fever does not appear to significantly impair decision-making in our study. More research on the effects of powder fewer on milder forms of risk-taking behavior is needed.




Mannberg, A., Hendrikx, J., Johnson, J., & Hetland, A. (2021). Powder fever and its impact on decision-making in avalanche terrain. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(18), 9496.
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