Avalanche Education Is Associated with Increased Avalanche Safety Practices in the New Hampshire Backcountry

Wilderness Environ Med. 2023 Dec;34(4):457-461. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2023.07.001. Epub 2023 Sep 17.


Introduction: Avalanche risk can be mitigated by adhering to certain safety practices. Previous studies of these practices have focused on western United States and European cohorts. We conducted a survey of backcountry users in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to determine local adherence to 5 previously studied avalanche safety practices. We assessed whether participants were carrying transceiver, probe, and shovel (TPS); had formal avalanche education; had awareness of the day's avalanche danger level; had a route plan; and were traveling in a group.

Methods: Backcountry users in the White Mountains were directed to an online survey from December 2020 to June 2021. The survey was completed individually and queried demographics and avalanche safety practices.

Results: A total of 133 users participated. Not all surveyed participants answered all questions. Avalanche training was reported by 87% of users, 86% checked the avalanche forecast prior to recreating, 93% had a travel plan, 87% traveled in a group, and 59% carried TPS. All 3 items were carried by all group members only 48% of the time. Only 28% of users met all 5 safety practices.

Conclusions: White Mountains backcountry users are less likely to meet avalanche safety practices than users in previous studies. There is an association between meeting these defined safety practices and formal avalanche education.

Keywords: White Mountains National Forest; alpine touring; probe; rescue; skier; transceiver.

MeSH terms

  • Avalanches*
  • Humans
  • New Hampshire
  • Skiing*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Travel
  • United States