A3 seeks to further research related to snow and avalanche professionals. Please respond if you meet the criteria for Ryan’s research, and feel free to pass along to others who do, as well.

My name is Ryan Butler, and I am a long-time skier and backcountry enthusiast based in Portland, OR, and working to finish my Master’s in Adventure Education from Prescott College. This thesis research is the culmination of my own interests and curiosities in this sport we love, and I hope to contribute positive insights to our industry. Any questions may be directed to ryan.butler@student.prescott.edu.

Research Abstract

Historically, understanding decision-making and risk management strategies rely on accident analysis to attempt to understand what went wrong and why. Much of avalanche accident research takes this sharp end perspective first and commonly does not move beyond it. By using a systems-based perspective, one can uncover a larger network of influence when it comes to accidents. Rather than looking at an accident and working backward to understand the system, the goal of this research will be to understand the system behind the decision-making and risk management strategies of an early stage recreational skier in everyday practice. 

In this research, I hope to follow a recreationist and get a full glimpse of their thinking system that exists behind a routine ski tour. To understand the influences on a decision-making system at play, one must shine a light on the full system. Elements of the system in play are currently understood as equipment, education, and knowledge of avalanche safety and skiing, trip planning resources, with more elements likely to be discovered as well.

Study Goals

The goal of this study is to learn from early-stage backcountry skiers and snowboarders who have been using the backcountry for five or fewer seasons. I hope to identify the systems (e.g., trip planning, gear, experience) that influences and informs users prior to even getting to the trailhead. This study will hopefully inform and provide insight to our industry about the systemic influences that are present behind a ski tour.

Or share the survey link: https://ryanbutler775361.typeform.com/to/pjjO1Jj1

Feature photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash