Standarized Background Questions
for Avalanche Safety Surveys

This is the English version of the standardized questions that was developed for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The latest version of these questions are from Sept. 15, 2023.

Introduction

How did you hear about this CAIC initiative?

Please select one of the following options.

CAIC website
Outreach event by CAIC or Friends of CAIC
CAIC Social Media
Other social media channels
Avalanche safety course or relevant professional development
Outreach/newsletter/email of mountain club
Traditional print or online media (e.g., magazine, newspaper)
Radio or TV
Outdoor equipment or rental shop
Hotel or tourism organization
Information at a trailhead
Word-of-mouth
Other

How are you personally involved in avalanche risk management? *

Please select all options that apply.

Personal recreation (i.e., unguided)
Leader for organized recreational group or club (e.g. Colorado Mountain Club)
Fully certified mountain guide (IFMGA)
Certified ski guide (AMGA or equivalent)
Member of an alpine search and rescue organization
Member of ski patrol managing avalanche risk at ski area
Avalanche safety technician/engineer managing avalanche risk of infrastructure or worksites
Avalanche safety educator
Public avalanche forecaster
Avalanche researcher
Other

Winter backcountry activities

What recreational winter backcountry activities do you most often engage in? *

Please select at least one activity in the first column.

First most often Second most often Third most often
Backcountry ski/snowboard touring
Mountain snowmobiling
Motorized snowbiking
Out-of-bounds skiing/snowboarding
Alpine mountaineering during snow season
Ice climbing
Snowshoeing or winter hiking
Other
None
Clear Clear
Overall, how much experience do you have in all your recreational winter backcountry activities combined?

Please select the appropriate option in each column.

Number of winters Average number of days per winter
This is/was my first winter.
This is/was my second winter.
3-5 winters
6-10 winters
11-20 winters
More than 20 winters
1-2 days per winter
3-5 days per winter
6-10 days per winter
11-20 days per winter
21-50 days per winter
More than 50 days per winter
Which of the following Colorado regions do you commonly visit for winter backcountry recreation?

Please select all options that apply.

Steamboat and Flat Tops
Front Range
Vail and Summit County
Sawatch Range
Aspen
Grand Mesa
Gunnison
Northern San Juan Mountains
Southern San Juan Mountains
Sangre de Cristo Mountains

During what part of the winter season do typically recreate in these regions?

Please select all options that apply.

Late fall prior to avalanche forecasts being published
Early winter months (November, December)
Mid winter months (January, February)
Late winter months (March, April)
Spring after avalanche forecasts have stopped being published

On what days do you typically recreate in these regions?

Please select all options that apply.

Regular weekends
Statutory holidays/long weekends (e.g., Christmas, Easter)
Winter vacations
Regular weekdays

Preferred Terrain

When snowshoeing/winter hiking, how often do you leave the marked trails and create your own path?

Please select one of the following options.

Never
Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

When conditions allow, how often do you spend time in the following types of terrain when recreating in the backcountry?

Please select one option for each terrain type. Click on the images for a close up view of the different terrain types.

Terrain description Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always
Non-avalanche terrain
Low angle open terrain (<20°) or densely forested slopes. No crossing of avalanche paths or runout zones.
Simple avalanche terrain
Exposure to low angle open terrain (<20°) or densely forested slopes. Some forest openings may involve runout zones of infrequent avalanches. Many options exist to reduce or eliminate exposure.
Challenging avalanche terrain
Treeline or alpine terrain with well defined avalanche paths, start zones or terrain traps that can be dangerous to people. Typically only dealing with one path at a time, and options exist to reduce or eliminate exposure with careful routefinding.
Complex avalanche terrain
Alpine terrain with multiple overlapping avalanche paths or large expanses of open terrain. Commonly exposed to avalanche hazard from above. Travel requires commitment, and there are only minimal options to reduce exposure.
Extreme avalanche terrain
Very steep, open terrain averaging 35° with large proportions of terrain steeper than 45°. Steep faces with cliffs, couloirs, spines and gullies. No options to reduce exposure, and even small avalanche can have severe consequences.
Terrain description Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always
How often are your ice climbs exposed to avalanche hazard from above?

Please select one of the following options.

Never
Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

When recreating in the backcountry, how often do you leave the groomed trails and create your own path?

Please select one of the following options.

Never
Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

How often do your recreating in the backcountry trips involve short scrambles to either reach a summit or a ski line?

Please select one of the following options.

Never
Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

Desired Backcountry Experience

In general, how important are the following motivations/experiences for your desired recreate in the winter backcountry experience?

Please rate each statement on the scale from ‘Not at all important’ to ‘Extremely important’.

Not at all
important
Important Extremely
important
Spending time with family and/or friends
Being in nature
Being away from crowds
Feeling carefree and/or relaxed
Practicing/improving your avalanche risk management skills
Challenging/improving your technical backcountry travel skills
Experiencing risk
Experiencing the thrill, exhilaration and rush
Exploring new or different places
Navigating through challenging terrain (conditions permitting)
Reaching a summit or similar trip objective
Sharing a story, picture, or video on social media
Enjoying powder snow (conditions permitting)
Experiencing remoteness
Exercising and working on your physical fitness
Completing classic/well known/respected trips
Sharing your outdoor skills and knowledge with others
Not at all
important
Important Extremely
important
How important are the following identity related motivations to your desired backcountry experience?

Please rate each statement on the scale from ‘Not at all important’ to ‘Extremely important’.

Not at all
important
Important Extremely
important
Being outdoorsy and spending time outside all year round
Being part of a community who shares the same outdoor interests/activities
Being able to express myself through outdoor activities
Being known as a winter backcountry recreationist
Being competent at managing the risk from avalanches
Not at all
important
Important Extremely
important

Avalanche Safety Training

What is the highest level of formal avalanche safety training you have completed?

Please select one of the following options.

None
Indoor/live online avalanche awareness seminar
(e.g., evening seminar)
Avalanche rescue course
Level 1 course (introductory recreational course)
Level 2 course (advanced recreational course)
Avalanche training aimed at avalanche professionals
(e.g., guides, mountain rescue, avalanche technicians)
Other:
Have you or somebody you know ever been caught in an avalanche?

Please select all options that apply.

Yes - I know somebody who was caught, but I was not present.
Yes - I witnessed somebody in my group being caught.
Yes - I have personally been caught.
No - I have not had any of these experiences.

Decision-Making Role

Which of the following statements best describes how you typically contribute to the decision on when and where to go recreating in the backcountry and any avalanche risk management decision in the field?

Please select one of the following options.

I leave the decision-making completely to others (e.g., more experienced group member, trip leader).
I speak up when I have concerns, but I generally leave the decision-making to others.
Everybody in our group contributes to the decisions equally.
I am part of a small number of individuals who make the decisions for the larger group together.
I am the primary/sole decision-maker in the group (formal or informal).

Trip Planning

When planning a backcountry trip in Colorado, which of the following information sources do you typically consult for getting an understanding of the current avalanche conditions?

Please select all options that apply.

CAIC public avalanche forecast at colorado.gov/avalanche/.
Additional CAIC products at colorado.gov/avalanche/ (e.g., CAIC weather forecast)
Weather forecast (NWS or other provider)
Trip descriptions (guide books or online resources)
Topographic maps (paper maps or online applications)
Social media groups (e.g., Facebook, Instagram)
Information from clubs you belong to
Direct conversations with knowledgeable people you trust (online or offline)
Other


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In the Field

Which of the following safety equipment items do you typically bring into the backcountry in the winter?

Please select all options that apply.

Avalanche transceiver
Avalanche shovel
Avalanche probe
First aid kit
Mobile phone
Other (emergency) communication device (radio, satellite messenger of phone)
Avalanche airbag
Helmet

Do you regularly track your winter backcountry activities with a GPS device and upload your tracks to a website like Strava, Garmin Connect or similar?

Please select one of the following options.

Yes
No

Personal Background

Which gender do you identify with?

Please select one of the following options.

Man
Woman
Gender-fluid, non-binary, and/or Two-Spirit
Prefer to self-describe:
Prefer not to say.

In which year were you born?

Please pick your birth year from the drop down.

What is your native language?

Please select one of the following options.

English
Spanish
Other

Are you part of any identifiable outdoor communities, organizations or clubs (e.g., trip report blogs, FB groups, hiking or mountain clubs)?

Please describe in a few brief sentences.

Where is your primary residence?

Please select the appropriate options.

Country:
State/Province: (only if you live in the USA or Canada)
City/Town:
Postal code:

 

Background photo credit: Jake Hutchinson