Skiers avoiding avalanches, driving off road, and a link between the two


Senior Staff
Quoted from the article

Ian McCammon, a former National Outdoor Leadership School instructor with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, knew from contemporary research that human beings synthesize patterns and devise simple rules of thumb, also known as mental shortcuts or heuristics, in order to make numerous decisions quickly. This ability allows us to do routine things remarkably efficiently, like driving and shopping. But when we use heuristic thinking instead of analytical evaluation in unpredictable, high-risk environments, it can prove deadly.​

This applies to us as well. The same process is going on in our heads as is their's. I imagine most, if not all, of us has at one time remained silent in a situation we thought was risky and deferred to the more experienced driver. That is called a heuristic trap. Specifically the Expert Halo.

Can human judgment handle avalanches?
We’re better than ever at understanding the dangers of avalanches. So why can’t we avoid them?

Evidence of heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accident
OED 272: Accident Theory & Analysis Heuristic Traps



Very interesting article, as someone who is getting into back country, I am paranoid about avalanches. Maybe that's a good thing and wont fade with time/exposure, but I can see the human condition creeping in easily.

And yes I would 100% agree this can translate to off road and or recovery situations. I guess the old adage of see something say something rings true, but it can be so exceedingly hard at times.
Top Bottom