ADFAR

Avalanche Decision Framework for Amateur Recreationists

The first ADFAR (Avalanche Decision Framework for Amateur Recreationists) project produced the “Avaluator,” a simple decision support tool designed to help recreationists systematically manage avalanche hazard in the Canadian backcountry. Upon its introduction in the fall of 2006, the Avaluator has been well received by the professional and amateur recreation communities and 6200 Avaluators copies were distributed within the first winter. In addition, the Avaluator is now a crucial component of the Avalanche Skills Training curriculum.

Although the Avaluator has been a successful addition to avalanche education, the research conducted during the ADFAR project raised a number of new questions. In order to address these issues, the Canadian Avalanche Centre received funding from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat to conduct follow up research. The overall goal of the ADFAR 2 project is to address the gap in the progression from the rule-based approach promoted for novices, to the knowledge-based approach used by professionals by developing additional evidence-based decision tools for more advanced recreationists.

The five primary project objectives:

  1. The avalanche danger rating is a crucial input parameter for the Avaluator. However, the current avalanche danger rating system can be challenging for amateurs, who often struggle to understand what the different ratings really mean in practical applications. This project will develop an evidence-based avalanche danger model that includes more guidance about related field observations and appropriate risk management for the various ratings.
  2. The first ADFAR project showed that out-of-bounds skiers/snowboarders are the fastest growing backcountry user group. In addition, research indicated that this group has a considerably higher tolerance for risk than backcountry skiers/snowboarders and snowmobile riders. At this point, little is known about how to effectively communicate avalanche hazard information to this specific target audience. The ADFAR2 project aims to improve our understanding of the risk perceptions and reward motivations of this user group, and develop more suitable risk communication tools for this purpose.
  3. Field and snowpack observations are a key component of the knowledge-based decision approach used by professionals. However, significant experience is required to both interpret the findings and apply them to an avalanche hazard assessment. Preliminary studies conducted by the University of Calgary under the first ADFAR project revealed the exciting potential to develop easy-to-follow guidelines for using snowpack observations to verify public avalanche danger ratings on a local basis. The proposed project will build on these results and develop methods for integrating local field and snowpack observations in a decision framework for advanced recreationists.
  4. The Avaluator was developed as a decision aid for amateur recreationists with limited avalanche expertise. The goal of this project is to extend the Avaluator for more advanced users by developing rules that incorporate more complex avalanche concepts into the decision process.
  5. An important component for the development of any new risk management and communication tool is its subsequent evaluation, to ensure the initiative actually produces the desired impact. The final ADFAR2 objective is a detailed evaluation of the Avaluator’s efficacy. The result of this study will provide important information about the strengths and weaknesses of the Avaluator and give us valuable tools for future education and communication programs.

If you have any questions or suggestions about the ADFAR2 project, please feel free to contact us at adfar@avalanche.ca.

For more information about our sponsors and collaborators, please visit the following websites