Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

An Analysis of Visitor Awareness of Avalanche Danger at Three Areas - Mt. Hood, Oregon Public Deposited

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https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/c534ft22t

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  • Use of backcountry areas in winter by crosscountry skiers, snowshoers, climbers, snowmobilers and others has increased rapidly in the Mt. Hood area of Oregon in recent years. With this increase in use a larger segment of the user population is being exposed to potential a.,pl.H11 Winger. purpose of this study is to analyze the effectiveness of avalanche warning programs in the Mt. Hood area. In order to do this the current warning program was analyzed by the investigator and winter backcountry users were questioned as to how effective they thought it was. In conjunction the user's avalanche awareness was tested; their travel routes were recorded (primarily in relation to hazardous vs. nonhazardous terrain); the user's winter backcountry and climbing experience recorded; and their avalanche safety and awareness training recorded. Three study locations were used during all but two weekends from January 15, 1977, to March 26, 1977. The study locations- were at Timberline Lodge (and areas accessible from the lodge), White River Canyon and Hood River Meadows and adjoining areas. All areas were on the slopes of Mt. Hood. Methods used in the study included: on-the-ground surveys (supplemented by aerial photographs) to map the avalanche paths within the study areas; recording the location of all avalanche warning signs and observing the degree of use they received; on-site interviews and mailback questionnaires to gather backcountry experience and education information from the user and test their avalanche awareness; and periodic ski trips into the study areas to survey use patterns. Results showed that 33.5 percent of the people were traveling in potentially hazardous avalanche terrain. The potential for people to reach hazardous terrain with minimal experience was clear when terrain was reviewed and the low level of experience of some people traveling in such terrain analyzed. The U.S. Forest Service has begun an avalanche warning and awareness program in the Mt. Hood area. Analysis showed that few people took advantage of avalanche hazard information available through the Forest Service: only 16.3 percent had checked with the Forest Service to find out avalanche conditions in the Mt. Hood area; only slightly more people (29.3 percent) were aware of the avalanche advisory sign (advising people of avalanche conditions in the backcountry areas on the south and west sides of Mt. Hood); and visual observations showed that few people made a point to read posted avalanche warning signs in the backcountry areas. The reasons why the warning and awareness program are riot successful are: 1) the low avalanche awareness of users in the backcountry areas of Mt. Hood (in the sample less than eight percent of the people scored above 70 percent on the avalanche awareness test out of a total of 30 points possible); 2) the inability of signs currently in use to effectively transmit the message; and 3) the ineffectiveness of currently available avalanche safety programs and the way in which they are made available. Methods for improving the warning and awareness program are suggested in Chapter five. It is felt that increasing numbers of people participating in winter backcountry activities and the ease with which hazardous areas are accessable make the need for a good and efficient program imperative.
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