Using Citizen Science to Document Terrain Use and Decision-Making of Backcountry Users
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Avalanches represent the primary risk of death to backcountry skiers and snowmobilers in North American and European alpine countries. The best strategy for evading dangerous snowpack conditions that may result in an avalanche event requires skiers and snowmobilers to avoid or mitigate their use of hazardous terrain. Therefore, understanding terrain use is critical to understanding the causes of avalanche accidents. Secondary, post-event examination of accident data is inadequate for this understanding, and the logistical costs of user intercept surveys are problematic. Learning more about the behaviors and practices skiers and snowmobilers use to avoid avalanche fatalities or near misses is the primary concern of the avalanche education and research community. However, the topographical data required for analysis of skier and snowmobiler behavior with respect to terrain use is beyond the capacity of most backcountry skiers to provide via traditional surveys. This paper presents the use of a novel combination of user surveys and Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking to collect detailed terrain-use data from recreationists who voluntarily engage with researchers via active participation in citizen science research projects. We describe the methodology for these observations and present why they represent an effective approach to understand avalanche accidents.
Johnson, J., & Hendrikx, J. (2021). Using citizen science to document terrain use and decision-making of backcountry users. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 6(1).