Exploring the relationship between avalanche hazard and run list terrain choices at a helicopter skiing operation
While guides in mechanized skiing operations use a well-established terrain selection process to limit their exposure to avalanche hazard and keep the residual risk at an acceptable level, the relationship between the open/closed status of runs and environmental factors is complex and has so far only received limited attention from research. Using a large dataset of over 25 000 operational run list codes from a mechanized skiing operation, we applied a general linear mixed-effect model to explore the relationship between skiing terrain that is deemed appropriate for guiding (i.e., status open) and avalanche hazard conditions. Our results show that the magnitude of the effect of avalanche hazard on run list codes depends on the type of terrain that is being assessed by the guiding team. Ski runs in severe alpine terrain with steep lines through large avalanche slopes are much more susceptible to increases in avalanche hazard than less severe terrain. However, our results also highlight the strong effects of recent skiing on the run coding and thus the importance of prior first-hand experience. Expressing these relationships numerically provides an important step towards the development of meaningful decision aids, which can assist commercial operations to manage their avalanche risk more effectively and efficiently.