Avalanche Rescue

Avalanche Rescue is a competence required of backcountry skiers. Backcountry skiing is the practice of skiing outside controlled ski resort areas. This type of skiing brings the thrill and adventure of facing the great outdoors and some of the best snow conditions skiers can dream of, but it also comes wit the danger of avalanches. When facing an avalanche, backcountry skiers need to work effectively both individually and as a group to rescue buried victims. If they don’t, death is likely. One of the tools used by each person is a digital beacon that transmits an electromagnetic signal. If buried, others use their beacons to locate victims by searching for their signals, and then dig them out. This project investigates the relationship between the beacon, the skiers (who are often recreationists and non-expert rescuers), the environment, the usage of the beacon, and the social dynamics surrounding companion avalanche rescues. Through contextual observational studies and interviews, we have deepened our understanding of the challenges of performing companion avalanche rescue with beacons, which include mental representation, trust, distributed cognition, and practice. Our recent work in this area includes studying the opportunities a beacon park (a practice tool for recreationists) can provide to backcountry skiers in how they practice using their beacon.