05 Jun 2024
 | 05 Jun 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Key learning moments as predictors for understanding snowpack dynamics during a season-long avalanche course?

Tim Dassler, Richard Fjellaksel, and Gerit Pfuhl

Abstract. When skiing in avalanche-prone backcountry terrain, the thrill of the experience is always accompanied by the looming risks of injury or worse. Safety in snowy mountains hinges on understanding avalanche dangers. Avalanche education serves as a crucial tool to impart the skills needed to navigate these hazards safely. Understanding snowpack dynamics, i.e., whether the snow is stable, and conditions are safe enough is pivotal for making high quality safety judgments in potentially hazardous avalanche terrain. In our innovative and explorative avalanche course study, participants’ learning was monitored throughout an entire ski season and assessed a year after the course. Participants were co-designers, with their experiences and reflections forming course content. We measured learning outcomes before, during and a year after by collecting both qualitative and quantitative data from course participants. We present quantitative data from surveys assessing Key Learning Moments, challenges and skills, as well as from a log assessing knowledge about snow factors (“AviLog”). Our results show that the number of learning moments participants reported can indicate learning outcomes. However, we find that learning does not last for all. We discuss implications for mountain safety and avalanche education.

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Tim Dassler, Richard Fjellaksel, and Gerit Pfuhl

Status: open (until 17 Jul 2024)

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Tim Dassler, Richard Fjellaksel, and Gerit Pfuhl
Tim Dassler, Richard Fjellaksel, and Gerit Pfuhl


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Short summary
Skiing in avalanche-prone areas is thrilling but risky. Avalanche education, which teaches skiers to assess snow stability, is crucial for safety when entering hazardous terrain. This study tracks participants’ learning of snowpack analysis over a ski season and again a year later. Knowledge about snowpack and risk factors improved but less so understanding, highlighting uncertainties in the long-term impact of such training. This emphasizes the need for continuous education in mountain safety.