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Avalanche Safety Tips from IFMGA Guide Marc Piche

We asked our G3 athletes and ambassadors to share some of their favourite avalanche safety tips that resonate well with them. IFMGA & ACMG guide Marc Piche shared some insight on why he things the human factor is so critical, and why you should keep it in mind...

The ‘I' of Human Factors

There is no surprise that we have left the hardest part for last. For years, the focus of research has been on making small and incremental changes to the ‘snow science’ side of things. Now it has become abundantly clear that moving forward, the greatest gains in avalanche safety will be made by looking in the mirror.

People don’t typically have accidents because they miscounted the number of taps in their compression test or didn’t identify the correct crystal type in the weak layer. It is what we do with that information that matters. Only now are we starting to grasp how much baggage each of us brings to the table when it comes to making decisions in this challenging environment.

Lately, I’ve been trying to pay a lot of attention to how my actions or inactions impact decision-making within the group. By acknowledging how my actions influence others and how the actions of others affect me, I believe I am better able to see the train heading off the rails and hopefully steer it back on before it’s too late.

This is a complex topic and formal avalanche education has yet to find an effective way of teaching it. There are many great, albeit dry, books on the subject of human factors in decision-making but until now only one has been written with a focus on these issues in the avalanche world. Autonomy Mastery and Purpose by Bruce Kay is an entertaining read that does a great job of introducing these concepts and drawing parallels between decision-making and avalanche terrain and other high-risk environments.

- Marc Piche

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