Why is it safe? – Decision-making in avalanche terrain

The main aim of this project is to develop a new approach for decision-making in avalanche terrain. Hope is that this approach can be used in other environments that are complex and imply uncertainty.

Few things are as beautiful as snow-covered mountains. Along with this beauty comes a threat – the threat of avalanches. Therefore, correctly assessing the danger for avalanches and consequently making the correct decision is crucial and demands a complex evaluation of a range of factors. To assist decision-making in avalanche terrain, several decision-making frameworks have been developed. All frameworks consist of different building blocks we call factors. However, the necessity and applicability of these factors can be disputed. In an online survey we asked experts about their knowledge and use of existing frameworks, including use and importance of the different factors. Our analysis of the factors and decision-structure experts use is part of a larger project. The primary objective is to develop and test a new approach in go or no-go decision-making, working title: Why is it safe? (WISE). The aim to create an approach that can aid in situations involving potential risk, making decisions on behalf of others or yourself. Advantages we aim for with this new method are:

  • The work pattern helps avoiding several heuristic traps.
  • The workflow is the same for all user levels. Meaning you can «evolve» with it.
  • It structures relevant information and it forces the user to be transparent.
  • It accepts situations with uncertain answers - the gray zone


Markus Landrø
Gerit Pfuhl