Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain Seminar - Ratho 29/30 Oct 2011
The Seminar was very successful, with a broad spectrum of winter mountain users attending including skiers, snowboarders, climbers and walkers as well as Mountain Guides, Instructors and Mountain Rescue personnel. Around 125 people attended on the Saturday and this provided the SAIS and SAFOS an opportunity, through the speakers, to present the attraction of the Scottish winter environment, avalanche hazard challenges that we face, perspectives and approaches from other countries, and recent developments in avalanche hazard understanding with a focus on issues relating to decision making in avalanche terrain. In addition there was an opportunity through question and answer periods, and a concluding panel discussion, to hear a wide range of the issues raised by the participants.
During these discussions a range of subjects were covered including; the responsibilities of those providing activity information via social media such as Facebook or Blogs, ways of obtaining information from trusted sources, recognition that avalanche hazard evaluation is complex and that no single solution is available, but that nonetheless opportunities exist to improve understanding and teaching so that those visiting the mountains in winter can safely enjoy winter sports in avalanche terrain.
Sunday provided an opportunity for small groups, mostly composed of mountaineering professionals, to discuss points raised on Saturday, and to identify possible ways forward focussing on providing high quality information and avalanche education in Scotland. An important element of these discussions was identification of current strengths in the provision of avalanche education and information, and learning from best practice examples worldwide. Amongst the points identified for development by the participants were:
To develop an essential avalanche awareness "info card” incorporating recent advances in avalanche education in conjunction with a wide range of agencies involved in the provision of avalanche education, and to identify effective means for the distribution of such a card
To consider how information related to safe travel and avalanche hazard could be consistently incorporated in mountain information provided in blogs and other condition reports
To consider developing a range of resources for avalanche education programmes, including online resources, which would be freely accessible to the public and those delivering avalanche education
To coordinate the development of an avalanche education structure which would provide a consistent model for both the public and all those involved in the teaching of avalanche awareness.
There was a general agreement amongst the seminar’s participants that working towards these shared goals would be of benefit, and SAFOS together with the SAIS will seek to identify both key partners and potential funding routes in the coming months. In the short term, the first two items on the list will be addressed. Overall, the seminar provided an excellent opportunity to bring together a wide range of those interested and involved in the delivery of avalanche education, and suggested potential ways forward for the future. Thanks must go to the Pritchard family whose support enabled us to offer this very worthwhile weekend.