An SFU study is equipping backcountry guides with GPS devices to better understand the risk of avalanches in B.C. and Alberta.

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SFU avalanche expert uses GPS to make backcountry safer in Western Canada

February 05, 2018
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By Justin Wong

A study led by Simon Fraser University avalanche expert Pascal Haegeli strives to make the mountains safer for backcountry enthusiasts.

His research team equips commercial backcountry guides in Western Canada with GPS devices to better understand how to manage the risk of avalanches when travelling in the backcountry.

Snow avalanches are the deadliest natural hazard in Canada, killing an average of 13 people every year. Most of these fatalities occur in British Columbia and Alberta and involve backcountry recreationists.

“Over the last few years, the popularity of winter backcountry sports has grown dramatically in Canada,” says Haegeli, SFU’s Industrial Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management.

“While commercial backcountry guides have a lot of expertise when it comes to safety and preventing avalanche incidents, avalanche safety research has so far not looked at this knowledge systematically.”

The study aims to capture the operational knowledge of experienced backcountry guides, and develop tools that preserve and use this knowledge as well as help train future guides.

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