Backcountry Research Project Wants To Track Your Ski Tours


The Snow and Avalanche Lab at Montana State University wants to track your ski tours. While not all readers here are heading into the backcountry, many of you like to spice it up by earning your turns on occasion. If so, you could be a part of some exciting research simply by using an app on your phone.

Led by MSU faculty Dr. Jordy Hendrikx, the project aims to collect GPS location information and survey responses from backcountry skiers and riders to better understand what types of terrain decision we make. Their focus is on backcountry skiers and riders of all abilities and experience. You need not be an expert backcountry skier to participate in this research.

Every track submitted will go into the draw for some great prizes kindly donated by Black Diamond Equipment. The more tracks you submit the more chances you have at winning a prize!


At the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Seattle this weekend, Jordy presented the data gleaned from last season. He had tracks from Utah to Norway with information about the steepness of terrain travelled, the avalanche conditions and the dynamics of the group.

Surprisingly, however, there wasn’t a single track from the state of Washington. Jordy mused that perhaps skiers and riders in Washington just don’t venture out into the backcountry. Or perhaps, and this seems more likely to me, folks around here like to keep their stashes a secret.

Why They Need Your Help

Whatever the case, you need not worry. Jordy isn’t sharing your goods with the world. Instead, he and his team of snow science graduate students are looking for decision making patterns in the backcountry.

He’s already drawn some interesting conclusions from last season. One that I found particularly illuminating was the effect that women have on decision making. Groups of all-guy backcountry users tend to get into riskier situations. Jordy and his team can track this by comparing the steepness of the terrain entered with the avalanche hazard rating for that time and location. Add one gal to the mix and the riskiness stays about the same. But add two or three ladies to the group and the levels of risk-taking start to go down. All-women groups are the most risk-averse of backcountry users.

The Three Shivas were also in attendance at NSAW on Sunday, giving our version of the Chair 6 Avalanche story. I’m here to tell you, if you want to be sure to have a safe backcountry experience, just bring one of us along. Once you’ve seen a slope go big, you never forget it.

How to Sign Up

Click on the image below to sign up. Jordy needs some Washington backcountry users to broaden his study. Just think of it as your way of “giving back.”


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