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  1. #1
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    Human Factors in Avi Accidents

    Hey there gang, well even I have to admit things don't look good right now and we are all in for a long slow wait until things settle down and have a chance to cure. I have no way to speak to how long this will take but I can put out some things to think about that apply to all snowpack: the Human Factor.

    The pros started talking about this just before I did my CAA Level 2 and the theme was that just about every avalanche accident has an element of human decision making involved... why did the group go for one last run, why did you cross the slope in the middle?

    Things like timing, group dynamics and fatigue and health all factor in. I'm gonna toss some of the ideas I remember from courses and personal observations and ask everybody else out there to add their own stories and observations. This isn't very scientific and it will not help anyone understand the snowpack but if it helps one person make a better decision in the snow someday then it will be worth the time:

    1. Mixed gender groups make better decisions (I can get away with this cuz I'm a gurl): a group of all guys has a hard time backing off a goal due to escalating testosterone levels, having a girl around may help disperse that and allow the group to consider backing off without any of the guys having to step up and have th balls to call it bad. (provided of course that he girl has the balls to make the call of course.) - I wonder if this had a hand in the big Fernie accident... 8 guys jonsing to go... generally speaking it would be a hard sell to turn back... and good for any guy who has the balls to seem like a "chicken"... at least the chicken is guaranteed to ski again another day.

    2. Time- the 3:20 syndrome
    ... nothing bad has happened yet so it won't. If it hasn't slide by now, it isn't going to. Many accidents happen late in th afternoon, complacency and comfort factor in, also fatigue in the group, people are getting tired and are less likely to pick up on signs of instability, people fall and spend more time on slopes. Consequences are also higher in the event of an incident due to rescuer fatigue and darkness approaching to prevent back up from arriving. Plan do ski the Gnar closer to noon and back off towards the end of the day, don't pick the hardest run for your last.

    3. Time - amount of time you have to do something
    will affect how you make decisions. If you are ike me and have forever to do things... well it is easy to put it off until next week, next month or even next year... I'm in it for the long run so I don't have to push anything. The kid from the UK who is here for a year is in a different boat, she wants to have as many great runs as she can get cuz she is off to become a corporate accountant in Bristol next year and will be cut off in April. The factor of not having other options will cause folks to push the limits. I recently had an experience where the 12 hour window of opportunity for an event fell inside high avi hazard and the leader of the group wanted to do the exercise regardless of the funky conditions. The fact that this is the only chance to do something does not make it the best reason to do it.

    4. Fatigue - tired people make stupid decisions.
    "I don't want to go around this slope because I'm too tired to climb to the ridge... I'll ski fast across the middle instead." This one can also be a time thing... we don't have time to climb up and around before dark so lets just cross the slope.

    5. Familiarity - I've skied this hundreds of times and it has never slid!!! This is very important for the slack country right now... the snow is super funky and it is NOT normal... your backyard is a scary place right now, take it easy. I wonder if this played a role in the accident in Fernie too: "Come on... it's only Harvey Pass, we've been sledding there since we were 12!!" Other places to be caught by this one: Flute and Oboe, West Bowl, Wawa Ridge, anyplace you go every weekend with yer buds just outside the boundary fence. or just off the highway with easy access.

    6. Cabin Fever - it has been storming for a week (or raining or just plain crappy snowpack) and no-one has been out to play for a while... the jones starts to sink in and off you go... the closer you get to the end of a week the harder this one gets to resist. My Dad got caught and lost a ski to cabin fever on a week long trip, it was the only run they took on day 6 of 7... they probably should have make another cup of tea instead. Good weather plays a part in this one... mild temps and bluebird just after the storm will lure us out into th mountains and make us feel GREAT about being out... but the storm stopped only yesterday...take it easy.

    There... someone else can have the soap box for a bit... any other human factors out there???

  2. #2
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    expert halo....

  3. #3
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    this might fit into #3 but...

    "Just 'cause it's your day off doesn't mean the snow is stable"

    Thanks for this thread, skibee.


    "All the experts are dead"

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by skibee View Post
    any other human factors out there???
    Too distracted to notice instability


  5. #5
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    The last three pposters in this thread should fucking die
    The police never find it as funny as you do.

  6. #6
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    I think you've made some awesome observations Skibee...especially regarding the idea of wanting to push things due to time constraints or due to stepping up the level. I am by no means an expert in the back/slack country, but I think another potential human factor is being knowledgeable it self.

    I think about the "Dozen More Turns" video posted up in the slide zone. The guy that triggered the slide in that video was working on his masters in snow science and was extremely knowledgeable about bc travel, but (and I guess this comes back to wanting to push things) he wanted just a couple more turns, so he hiked higher into an area that wasn't any good. I guess what I'm saying is that being extremely knowledgeable about terrain and safe bc practices can only take you so far. If you don't use that knowledge wisely, it won't do you any good. You also have to have the mental strength to be able to say "no" to something, and at times that can be really, really hard to do....sometimes I guess its all about just trusting your gut...

    If you have any reservations, or if anyone in the group is concerned with the decisions being made, its the responsibility of the group to listen to that voice. It might be hard sometimes, but it might just save your life in the end.

    Awesome post.
    Last edited by pbourdon; 01-11-2009 at 04:26 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by DoWork
    Well we really came up with jong because it was becoming work to call all the johnny-come-lately whiny twats like yourself ball-licking, dick-shitting, butthole-surfing, manyon-sniffing, fotch-fanagling, duck butter spreading, sheep fucking, whiny, pissant, entitled, PMSing, baby dicked, pizza-frenchfrying, desk jockeying flacid excuses for misguided missles of butthurt specifically. That and JONG is just fun to say.
    the-one-track-mind

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by neil3777 View Post
    DIE? You should GTO, EAD and GFY! 'nuff said!
    Wow, it's amazing that I can illicit such a response from a trolling faggot.


    Good thread Skibee, it sucks that the trolls won't leave these threads alone.
    The police never find it as funny as you do.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by neil3777 View Post
    WOW! You actually read that post? I guess I got distracted by the pic and said F it!
    Yeah I read the post...I saw the boobs after gleaning some awesome info...I was distracted after the fact...
    Quote Originally Posted by DoWork
    Well we really came up with jong because it was becoming work to call all the johnny-come-lately whiny twats like yourself ball-licking, dick-shitting, butthole-surfing, manyon-sniffing, fotch-fanagling, duck butter spreading, sheep fucking, whiny, pissant, entitled, PMSing, baby dicked, pizza-frenchfrying, desk jockeying flacid excuses for misguided missles of butthurt specifically. That and JONG is just fun to say.
    the-one-track-mind

  9. #9
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    http://www.snowpit.com/articles/traps%20reprint.pdf

    i can't find it online other than this .pdf file but this is a good read.
    "At least if the species has lost it's animal strength, individual members can have the fun of finding it again..."
    -T & R Russell On The Loose

  10. #10
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    Those are not melons... thats guava!!!

    Tits are a good thing, if making a good decision so you can live to see tits again is all that motivates you then so be it!!!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by skibee View Post
    Those are not melons... thats guava!!!

    Tits are a good thing, if making a good decision so you can live to see tits again is all that motivates you then so be it!!!
    Pragmatism at its finest.

    Thanks for your thoughts & observations.

  12. #12
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    Great post skibee!
    Every point you made resonates.
    So many people think that a beacon,shovel,and probe make it OK to do stupid shit. Observation and sound judgement are far more important than "having the gear".
    There seem to be two general responses to taking an avalanche course or courses.
    1) I am better informed now and can use this knowledge to take greater risks "safely".
    2) I am better informed now and have a newfound respect for avi hazard and winter travel. I have been lucky in the past, now is the time to be smart(and conservative).
    Are you a "1" or a "2"?
    Sir J, you are like Shakespeare's fool. In an attempt to be funny, you have in fact been profound.
    Great tits and great snow can both cloud ones' judgement.
    Legalize it. Don't criticize it.

  13. #13
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    Proposal for Human Factor #7.

    Thinking that safety equipment compensates for poor judgement. Lots of posts around here admonishing maggots to "wear your beacon." Given that, amongst non-professionals, avalanche transievers reduce fatalaties by a fairly measly 10%, one wonders how often people ski unsafe terrain/conditions under the mistaken impression that it will be okay because they've "got their gear on."

    EDIT: Sorry for the redundancy. Baddog was posting while I was typing. I guess a "x2" would have done.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by skibee View Post
    1. Mixed gender groups make better decisions (I can get away with this cuz I'm a gurl): a group of all guys has a hard time backing off a goal due to escalating testosterone levels, having a girl around may help disperse that and allow the group to consider backing off without any of the guys having to step up and have th balls to call it bad.
    I'm pretty sure that one of the authors of a human factors paper actually argued the opposite - that mixed groups are at the most risk. Has something to do with males wanting to show off...

  15. #15
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    Skibee, great observations and thread.
    I've heard a lot about 'heuristic traps', some of which are along the same lines as your notes. A quick search popped up this page over on pistehors.
    ------------snip---------------
    The paper "Evidence of heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accidents" presented at the 2002 International Snow Science Workshop by Ian McCammon gives some interesting insights into the decisions making process in the backcountry. A heuristic is a rule that people apply when they recognize some common pattern in a complex set of data. Analysing avalanche risk a a complex judgement call involving variables such as new snowfall, predominant wind direction and speed, humidity, temperature history, slope gradient and steepness. A heuristic trap is where the backcountry skier ignores this large data set and incorrectly applies a rule of thumb.

    McCammon investigated 622 accidents in the United States between 1972 and 2001 and identified four common traps: Familiarity, Social Proof, Commitment and Scarcity. What was surprising was that experienced backcountry users were as likely to be caught by these traps as inexperienced.

    Familiarity

    is where a group is skiing slopes they have skied many times in the past. It seems when we are skiing terrain we know well we let our guard down and ignore warning signs. When groups of experienced and inexperienced backcountry travellers were compared, experienced skiers were at a distinct advantage on unfamiliar terrain where they critically examined available data. On familiar slopes there was no difference between experienced and inexperienced groups. The familiarity heuristic may actually have a sound basis. Slopes that are skied regularly are stabilized by the passage of skiers.

    Social Proof

    We tend to believe behaviour is correct or can be justified when we witness other people engaged in it. This can range from people crossing piste-closed markings to decisions on whether to ski a slope. McCammon found that social proof affected even groups with significant avalanche awareness where they witnessed groups similar to themselves on a slope.

    Commitment

    This is the tendency to carry on with a course of action whatever the indications to the contrary. Groups that had a high commitment were trying to achieve a stated goal with the pressure of darkness, timing or weather constraints. These groups were more likely to expose themselves to danger. cf/ Orres and Durrand glacier accidents.

    Scarcity

    When we perceive resources to be in short supply: Beenie Dolls, Luxury Goods or Powder Snow we tend to compete for them more aggressively. McCammon found that the presence of untracked powder snow within easy reach of other skiers to have a significant effect on the evaluation of risk.
    ----------snip---------
    Sorry to only respond with a cut/paste, but it rings true in my little brain...
    The entire paper here.
    Something about the wrinkle in your forehead tells me there's a fit about to get thrown
    And I never hear a single word you say when you tell me not to have my fun
    It's the same old shit that I ain't gonna take off anyone.
    and I never had a shortage of people tryin' to warn me about the dangers I pose to myself.

    Patterson Hood of the DBT's

  16. #16
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    There are no human factors.

    It's all luck.

    Just give'r.

  17. #17
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    Human factor # 8

    The camera is ready...or rolling.

    You are standing above a great line. Theres a really nice huck in there too. But this slope is a little dodgy, has a slight convex entry, and not pulling off the landing, and or the weight of a skier landing, could trigger something. But your buddy is in position with the camera ready, the light is good, and you really want to pimp this line to make a good photo or video. What to do what to do?

    I have given in to this one many a time, but I have also backed off a lot too! Its a tough decision!
    Quote Originally Posted by Eldo View Post
    what happened to Shadam this year? Usually by now he is posting drinking reports daily.

  18. #18
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    Tye 1on- thanks for the summary and cool link.

  19. #19
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    I have always studied the writings on heuristic traps because that stuff is fascinating to me, everyone should read the paper Tye1on references.

    I don't ski with more than one other person, generally. Two if I'm touring on glaciers. Opportunities for heuristic traps increase exponentially.

    I am curious as to what "golden rules" people regularly break and why? Andrew McLean never carries a probe, as an example. I carry a probe but I never dig pits. Generally, I already know whether I'm going to ski something. Pits just confirm whatever you happen to be thinking at the moment. If you're ready to charge and the slope looks good, the pit will confirm that. If the slope seems sketchy, the pit will confirm that.

    Just my opinions, I would never try to sell them to someone else.
    "Buy the Fucking Plane Tickets!"
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  20. #20
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    ^^ I think in a 'normal' snowpack scenario a pit can be a source of interpretative ambiguity. But right now, dig any pit in Whistler and the column will slide either on cutting or after a quick tap or R1. You can punch a fist into the bottom layer of sugar crystals. No way you could interpret that pit as safe unless you were a loony.

    Nice list, SkiBee.

    May I also x3 the beacon-is-making-me-safe factor. Lots of people buying beacons right now without the knowledge. Actually heard in the shop: "I just strap this on and they find me, right?" Glad they are buying gear, but I almost wish it was mandatory to have an AST-1 to own one.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by khyber.pass View Post
    Actually heard in the shop: "I just strap this on and they find me, right?" Glad they are buying gear, but I almost wish it was mandatory to have an AST-1 to own one.
    Did you happen to do a beacon search in the shop Saturday about 4pm? Find someone nears the boots chatting with Jason? Van_skier and I were talking boots with Jason yesterday.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Jongalot View Post
    Too distracted to notice instability
    Since you didn't ask permission to steal, resize and post some else's picture how about you at least shrink it to a reasonable size so people who actually came to read the post can read much easier than scrolling back and forth. There are people who are more interested in the topic at hand than your preoccupation with tits and stalking.
    It's not so much the model year, it's the high mileage or meterage to keep the youth of Canada happy

  23. #23
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    x2 Thanks L7, give Lulu a belly rubz for me!!

  24. #24
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    blah, blah, FUCKING blah about the contributing factors. Everything boils down to the decisions that you make...or fail to make.

    Make good decisions.

    No one ever seems to talk about being assertive in the group and speaking out.

    For some reason, I never hear too much about 'painting yourself into a box' where all the options that you have are bad.

  25. #25
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    Just did, she's very exhausted.
    It's not so much the model year, it's the high mileage or meterage to keep the youth of Canada happy

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