media release

SFU Announces New Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management

December 10, 2015

Pascal Haegeli, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment, 778.782.3579 or 604.773.0854,
Ingrid Leman Stefanovic, Dean, Faculty of Environment, 778.782.8797,
Justin Wong, University Communications, 778.782.3210,

Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Environment has announced Pascal Haegeli, an assistant professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management, as their new Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management.

Snow avalanches are the deadliest natural hazard in Canada, killing an average of 12 people every year. Approximately 80 percent of all Canadian avalanche related fatalities have taken place in B.C.

The SFU Faculty of Environment chair is being established through a unique collaboration between SFU and a number of contributing partners from the Canadian avalanche community, including: Canadian Pacific, Helicat Canada, Avalanche Canada Foundation, Avalanche Canada and the Canadian Avalanche Association.

A total of $1,025,000 in funding over the next five years will be available for Haegeli to conduct his avalanche research.

The goal of the chair is to work closely with their partners in the Canadian avalanche community to conduct interdisciplinary avalanche research focusing on safety and risk management to create tools for professionals and recreationalists to prevent avalanche incidents.


Pascal Haegeli, Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management, SFU, Faculty of Environment

“We want to better understand how the avalanche hazard is best managed when travelling in the backcountry so that we can give people better guidance on when and where to ski and snow mobile. 90 percent of avalanche accidents are caused by the victims themselves.”

Martin Cej, Assistant Vice-President, Public Affairs and Communications, Canadian Pacific

“CP is proud to support important research initiatives like this. With a vast network across North America, including through a number of mountain passes, gaining a better understanding of why avalanches occur and how we can prevent them is imperative.”

Ian Tomm, Executive Director, HeliCat Canada

“Avalanches are the single greatest mountain hazard that our staff and guests of helicopter and snowcat skiing face in Canada.  HeliCat Canada has a long history of supporting avalanche research and we are proud to be the largest non-government supporter of avalanche research in Canada. By investing in research initiatives such as this, we find unique opportunities that could not be pursued anywhere else and whose results benefit our members and the communities in which they operate, as well as the avalanche safety community at large.”

Gordon Ritchie, President, Avalanche Canada Foundation

“It is indeed very exciting to have SFU announce a new Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management. Canada has for many years been an international leader in avalanche research and we’re very pleased to help fund this new chair that will carry on the Canadian tradition of excellence in avalanche research.”

Joe Obad, Executive Director, Canadian Avalanche Association

“The Canadian Avalanche Association is proud to support the SFU Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management. Our members are committed to the best possible avalanche risk management. Encouraging and promoting avalanche risk management research and development in Canada is a natural extension of our commitment. This partnership is critical to continuing the strong tradition of avalanche research in Canada, connecting avalanche risk management practitioners and researchers. Dr. Pascal Haegeli’s exploration of human factors will add critical new dimensions to Canada’s strong body of existing research. We offer warm congratulations to Dr. Haegeli and to SFU and look forward to rolling up our sleeves to begin the important work that lies ahead.”

Gilles Valade, Executive Director, Avalanche Canada

“Research plays a key role in furthering our understanding of avalanches and how backcountry users interact with avalanche terrain. We are thrilled by today’s announcement and very much looking forward to continuing our long-standing collaboration with Dr. Haegeli.”


Snow Avalanche Stats in Canada

  • Approximately 12 Canadians die every year.
  • Approximately 80% of all Canadian fatalities occur in B.C.
  • Over the past 10 years, 45% of all fatalities have been snowmobilers and 40% have been skiers/boarders. The remaining victims have been other recreation (e.g. ice climbing) or non-recreation (i.e. workers).

Key Funding Details

Total contributions over 5 years = $1,025,000

  • Canadian Pacific
  • HeliCat Canada
  • Avalanche Canada Foundation
  • Avalanche Canada
  • Canadian Avalanche Association
  • SFU


The Faculty of Environment at SFU is the newest of only five comprehensive interdisciplinary Faculties of Environment in Canada and the only Faculty of Environment in Western Canada. From city building, sustainable business, conservation ecology and natural resource management to environmental science, climate change, aboriginal worldviews and ethics, offerings promote understanding of how to contribute towards a just and sustainable world.


As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.  SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada's comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia's three largest cities—Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby—SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.

Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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