Avalanche Safety Quiz

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 14, 2014      
Cleaver avalanche path, extent of 2005 'full path' slide is marked as one would shoot alpha

Cleaver avalanche path, Colorado, extent of 2005 ‘full path’ slide is marked as one would shoot alpha angle if they were standing at the bottom next to the trees that were still standing. This is a quiz hint.

Not sure if anyone noticed, but WildSnow.com is now an “SSL” website, meaning the address should show in your internet browser as “httpS.” Why? The data encryption invoked by SSL is really not all that important for the public side of content sites such as WildSnow — but Google has a new agenda to inspire the whole internet to convert over to SSL, and since Google is a deity we obey their commandments. Main benefit to you readers is that SSL does prevent certain forms of advertising fakery (bad banner substituted for a good one, in your browser), so all good.

Point here is that it’s been quite a bit of work getting everything functional when forced to SSL. One of the last challenges was our Avalanche Safety Evaluation Quiz. Hopefully, it now works. If you try the quiz, please fill out all answers thoughtfully as we do have an anonymous database of the answers and would like to keep it real.

The quiz results database contains about 9,500 results after filtering for most incomplete sessions and tests. I stuck the numbers in a spreadsheet and calced the average numerical score as 1,731 and the median at >< 900. Bear in mind that lower numbers are better, and these are good scores. Basically, the numerical scoring works like this, though it could be changed: - 0 - 1000 "Very little risk of dying in an avalanche." Somewhat difficult to achieve this score if you're honest about your answers. About 3,000 quiz results in this range. Due to flaw in quiz software I might have included some incomplete quizzes in these results. - 1001-2700 "Moderate risk level, keep working on safety." About 6,000 results in this range, we feel most backcountry skiers are in this category. - 2701-4399 "Red zone, take note and modify agenda." About 300 results in this range (3%). - 4400-5000 "Extreme risk level, complete stop of backcountry skiing recommended until changes are made." We only have about 20 results in this range, some could have been software tests.

To keep the library of associated blog comments intact, I re-dated this blog entry as today (original publication of quiz and this post was September 20, 2006).

Without more blabber from me, check it out and let us know what you think — and if you’re safe enough to ski with (grin). (Please complete all questions.)

Please leave feedback here and we’ll continue to change and improve the quiz.

If you link to the backcountry skiing avalanche risk quiz directly, please use the following URL:

original 2006 blog post below
We’ve been wanting to create an avalanche risk self evaluation quiz for quite a while, more as a learning tool than anything else, but also for fun. The idea is to stimulate thought and improvements in how we go about staying alive in avalanche country. We decided to go public but it’s still a work in progress, so your comments are highly appreciated.

The thrust of the project is to get away from gear issues as a measurement of personal safety. Ditto for book learning. Instead, the quiz weighs your answers in a variety of ways and tries to come up with an evaluation of your personal safety style. We use gear and knowledge questions, but mix those up with “human factor” questions and some goofy stuff just for fun.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


85 Responses to “Avalanche Safety Quiz”

  1. Lou September 20th, 2006 10:12 am

    John, good points and I’ll work on it. But some of your questions are answered in the header, and on the questions and answers page you’ll have access to once you complete the quiz.

    I believe that stuff has a lot of educational value.

    BTW, formal avalanche training does little to reduce the risk of avalanche death, and the question is weighted to reflect that (grin).

  2. John Rosendahl September 20th, 2006 10:03 am

    The quiz is a good idea but it really needs the following.
    1) The score is meaningless, I got a 1920ish out of 5000.
    What does that actualy mean, am I shooting for 5000 or 0?
    2) There is no opertunity for learning, all you get is a number I would display a copy of the quiz and have at leas a discussion of the question and the anwser. I.E
    Do you have formal (avalanche school etc.) avalanche safety training?
    [100pts] Yes
    [50pts] No
    [0 pts] What’s an avalanche?
    Having an formal avalance education can help you understand and mitagate your risk. Blah blah blah…

    That way people will learn from taking the quiz, and be able to modify their behaviour. I, for instance, travel in groups of 2-4 people. How would it modify my risk profile if I traveled in a group of six?

    While it would be good to be able to add (you anwsered X) to each question it would require a bit more scripting work.

    The mark of a good test is that you know more after taking it than you did before.

  3. Matt Kelly September 20th, 2006 1:23 pm

    Good quiz Lou. I scored in the range I imagined I would (2 out of 5). One comment though – I was personally offended that Wyoming was glaringly omitted from the mid-continent answer.

    – Matt

  4. Lou September 20th, 2006 1:34 pm


  5. Steve D. September 20th, 2006 7:29 pm

    Lou- Another great idea from the jedi master of the winter backcountry. Read the header, read the answers and agree with the first commenter, put a little more emphasis on telling folks to read the answer section after taking the quiz. That’s the real educational value.

    The timing of this piece is pretty good too, with the first big snow dump expected over the next few days. Lots of folks will be chomping at the bit to get out there, me included. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of avy risks this soon in the season; we know bad things can happen any time, as the unfortunate accident on up on Berthoud Pass showed us last year.

  6. Dave September 20th, 2006 7:53 pm

    This is cool. It will be nice to be able to quantify risk …”DUDE, I scored a 1067.” Seriously, I think this will be especially useful for those who are new to (safe) winter backcountry travel. I could actually send this to a couple friends who are expressing interest in ‘sidecountry’ skiing/riding. They do not understand the danger exists right over the ropes, and this tool may help them understand they need some tools, education, and experience.

    1. Question: “If you’re an experienced and educated backcountry traveler, does being in familiar avalanche terrain reduce your risk? “. 2 issues: a) I’m not sure I understand the question, so I answered ‘sometimes’. But, when I travel in avy terrain I follow the standard rules of thumb. I guess it just seems like a loaded question…could be me. b)There is not an answer for those who are not experienced. Should that person just skip that question?

    2. It would be interesting to see a couple questions that should be easiliy answered from a level 1, 2, and 3. I think you’ve done that somewhat, but those questions might help assess the participants knowledge. Perhaps questions about diggin pits, crossloaded slopes, aspect/temps, or safety islands.

    3. Question: “During your last season of winter backcountry recreation, how many times did you skip something fun but risky (powder turns, highmarking, etc.) because your observations told you there was too much avalanche danger? ” Everytime, but that was not a choice. Again, it could be the wording of the question.

    Thank you for putting this together, and I hope you get it finalized, so I can pass around!


  7. Lou September 20th, 2006 8:15 pm

    Hey guys, thanks, I’m working on your suggestions this evening! Great points!

  8. Lou September 20th, 2006 9:50 pm

    Okay guys, I did some tweaks. Bedtime now. Dave, please try it on your friends and see if the results agree with your assessment of their risk level. Or test it yourself by deliberate wrong answers and see if you get the results you think you should.

  9. Lynn September 21st, 2006 9:50 am

    First off, there’s skiing in Wyoming?? I know my friend Carl uses his mini-skis up there….

    Secondly, I like this quiz, always good to think and be reminded. Was I marked down for using the word dude? Actually I think there should be some deduction for using the word randonee or AT .

  10. Steve Christie September 21st, 2006 3:15 pm


    Where’s the score “key?” Apparently I’m in the wrong line of work.


  11. Lou September 21st, 2006 3:21 pm

    Steve, all the details are in the header above the quiz, you’ll also find a link there to a page with info about the questions/answers.

  12. sherry bunch September 22nd, 2006 3:29 pm

    I thought it was just a fun, tongue-in-cheek thing to do. (Ref: the question about using dude in a sentence ; ), not to be taken too seriously- some of the questions set me up for a risky behavior answer). It’s all good and fun.

  13. Lou September 23rd, 2006 8:40 am

    Sherry and all, it’s indeed supposed to be fun, but does have a serious side. The level of risk you end up with in your score should give you some idea of how you’re doing in controlling your personal safety while backcountry skiing. If you score in the upper two levels (4,5) you’ve got some issues you should deal with or you’re asking for trouble. Other levels are more subtle…

  14. Rob September 25th, 2006 3:26 pm

    What have you used to validate or calibrate the results of this test? Have you taken the answers of people over time to the different questions and looked at whether they have gotten caught in a slide? I’m not trying to be overly critical – I think it is a good tool – but I have my doubts as to whether it has scientific validity.

  15. Lou September 25th, 2006 3:49 pm

    Rob, thanks for the comment. It’s a fun teaching tool that we feel is quite valid. We feel the results are accurate as described in the scoring explanations. Nope, I’ve not taken the answers/scores over time and compared to actual events. Probably never will, since the test is anonymous.

  16. Lenka K. September 26th, 2006 9:32 am

    Hi from Europe, Lou,

    I enjoyed doing your test and turns out I’m not too likely to die in an avalanche, yipeeee! 🙂

    But seriously, what on Earth is an alpha angle?

    Lenka K.

  17. Lou September 26th, 2006 11:50 am

    Lenka, alpha angle is the angle from where you are standing at the bottom of an avalanche slope, sighted to the top of the avalanche slope. If it’s greater than about 22 degrees it’s possible that you are in a place where you could be buried if an avalanche comes down from above (depending on potential energy and size of slide). The traveler measures the angle by sighting along the edge of an inclinometer. Experienced travelers learn to judge this just by looking, but it’s a super useful concept for people who are learning how to route find through avalanche terrain.

    It is NOT the angle of the slope, it is the angle from your position to the top of the slope.

  18. Andrew Klotz October 12th, 2006 5:01 pm

    I have a small quibble with the test, I’m not positive of my statistics, but I strongly suspect that if you factor all of the hundreds of thousands of safe-days skiers have logged with guides in Canada, US, an EU and then compared that to their total fatality/injury rate – I think it would show overwhelemingly that traveling with guides is one of the safest options (notwithstanding a few spectacular accidents) – however to compare it to unguided party accidents we would need to know the number of unguided backcountry skier days – and wouldn’t we all like to know that number?….just a thought, admittedly I’m biased towards advocating for guides.

  19. Lou October 12th, 2006 5:12 pm

    Hi Andrew, the quiz doesn’t make a big deal out of guided, group size, etc, I forgot the weighting but remember it’s not extreme, though it does favor smaller groups. As for numbers, when Reudi had his accident he shared how many client/days he’d had up to then, and I did the math. Turned out it was actually a fairly risky activity according to Reudi’s numbers, right up there with flying small planes and skydiving is my recollection.

  20. Derrick November 6th, 2006 2:49 pm

    What exactly is the “dude” question asking? I use the word all the time but I’m not some punk park rat…I’m 28. How does that have anything to do with my attitude toward avy safety?

  21. Lou November 6th, 2006 3:17 pm

    Hi Derrick,
    Some of the questions are specious, just intended to interject some levity and prevent over-thinking while taking the quiz. Dude question is a bit of that, but also to get you thinking about what population you’re a part of.

    BTW, this is not an attitude quiz, but rather a risk evaluation quiz. Many people who are caught in avalanches have a fairly cautious attitude…that’s why the quiz has so many questions about age, gender, group size etc. Those questions are important and weighted according to avalanche accident stats.

  22. samh September 30th, 2008 2:34 pm

    Lou – great quiz. The link to the “answers” page is broken in your post however. – Sam

  23. Evan September 30th, 2008 3:22 pm

    Ther is evidence that somebody put a lot of effort in focusing the outcome of the quiz on practical value, ditching often inflated Academic BS. It is a good quiz because it is best taken with no preparation. I’m going to forward it to all my ski buddies.

  24. Lou September 30th, 2008 5:17 pm

    samh, the explication of answers is available via a link after you complete the quiz.

    Evan, thanks for the ata-boy. Tough getting this going and keeping it working. Appears to have caused a server outage this morning since so many people hit it at once. Working on that with the server folks.

  25. Sky September 30th, 2008 5:41 pm

    1586 is great SAT score. Then I clicked ‘go here’ and got

    Not Found, Error 404

    The page you are looking for no longer exists.

  26. Lou September 30th, 2008 5:43 pm

    All the links working when I test, please be specific. Sky, you probably got a momentary server error due to our short server timeout. We’re fine tuning that. Thanks all for testing.

  27. Dostie October 1st, 2008 8:46 am

    Thought the question about going one at a time should be split into two. Here in the land of the 24 hour rule we gang skin for conversation and solo ski for safety and photo opps.

  28. Bob Coleman October 1st, 2008 8:52 am

    Great job Lou! I’d like to make the point that decision making before and during backcountry travel is the subject we should be learning, Your quiz has that focus.
    Avalanche safety and snow science are study parts to decision making just like vulnerabilities and threats are to risk. Each summing up to probable consequences.

    The link is to a Facebook group called Avalanche – Decision Making Before and During Backcountry Travel

    Bob Coleman
    Federal Way, WA
    basic alpine climber and bc traveler

  29. Johann October 1st, 2008 9:04 am

    not familiar with Utah/Colorado/Montana/Wyoming, mid-continent area, Pacific Northwest, Northwest, Sierra or other coastal type snowpack.
    Simply because I doing backcountry skiing in the Alps. I suggest that you try to make the test fully international, because it is an outstanding idea, as is the whole content of your website. All the best, Johann, Austria

  30. Lou October 1st, 2008 10:55 am

    Johann, good point! I’m so provincial (grin)… I can’t have questions for snowpack all over the world, but perhaps I can make the questions specific to the type of snowpack you usually ski on, rather than region. I’ll work on it.

  31. Norm October 1st, 2008 11:09 am

    Great Quiz quite thought provoking. Thanks

    You do however have a bad link in the text that comes up after the quiz. New the end in the sentence
    “After you take the quiz, click here for how the answers work to produce your score.”

    Based on your comment above and from looking at your generated HTML source code the relative link you have in the href for the anchor tag isn’t resolving (at least for Firefox 2 on Windows XP)

  32. Lou October 1st, 2008 11:48 am

    Norm, please try it now. Thanks, Lou

  33. Norm October 1st, 2008 12:12 pm

    That’s got it

  34. Lou October 1st, 2008 1:05 pm

    Norm, thanks for checking back, I wasn’t having the problem in IE so it hadn’t been on my radar, I should have checked in Firefox but hadn’t gotten around to it.

  35. Carl October 2nd, 2008 4:18 pm

    Nice quiz. Reminded me that most of my partners lack first aid training. One thing though, I’ve never skied in the backcountry with a female. Disappointing, but true. Didn’t see that as an option.

  36. Scott October 2nd, 2008 6:32 pm

    Dude! is the survey biased against my mohawk?

    I think this is a great quiz. I think a level of education section could help it be more accurate, as well as number of close calls you have had.


  37. Lou October 2nd, 2008 6:42 pm

    Scott, depends on if you use your mohawk to dig snow pits or not.

    Not much of a correlation between education level and increased safety, or at least nothing I care to try and use as a scoring method, problem is many if not most people killed have some avy education… behavior is more important. Nonetheless we feel some education is better than none, so we tried to keep that in mind while weighting the answers.

  38. Sarah October 2nd, 2008 10:54 pm

    I scored in the weenie Level 1 Range- which is not to say that being ‘safe’ is being a weenie- but a reflection that I think I’m in the ‘tweener’ category of: have had enough avalanche training (and friends in avalanches) over the years to put the fear of God in me (being dead has a tendency to really put a damper on your day), but still don’t feel confident enough in my own assessments. It’s very disturbing, at least to me, when you read about people who are very educated in avalanche awareness getting killed in avalanches- makes you wonder how you could make any better decisions. Bottom line is I’d rather miss out on having some great fun by being overly conservative, then end up dead and having no fun at all.

  39. Lou October 3rd, 2008 6:56 am

    Sigh, I should have reversed the score so higher number was safer… as for how to make better decisions, it’s a paradigm shift you have to make, in that the level of acceptable risk for many groups is quite high. Much of it is who you choose to go out with, as the decisions are generally more of a group consensus rather than any one person’s take. And yeah, level of education has little to do with it, beyond being able to know you’re in avalanche terrain or not. In fact, it appears to me from observation and associated stats that those with more education get into a guessing game about skiing questionable slopes, and sometimes end up using their education to rationalize taking more risks. Thus, education is not weighted heavily in our quiz.

    That said, avy educators have recognized this failing of avalanche education and have been adjusting their curriculum all the time to include more human factor and decision making components, rather than learning 50 types of snow crystals. Thus, someday perhaps the level of avalanche education will have a direct and positive effect on safety outcome. In other words, someday perhaps we’ll be able to have a quiz question about level of avy education, and weigh it heavily in a positive way. But in my opinion that’s not possible at this time.

  40. William October 20th, 2008 9:12 pm


    The quiz was thought provoking. Thank you very much for this and all the other great content on wildsnow.com!


  41. Lou October 20th, 2008 10:49 pm

    Thanks William, good to know it’s still working after all the site tweaking we’ve been doing. How did you score?

  42. William October 20th, 2008 11:01 pm

    I scored 2200/level 3. I will be sure to leave the women and risk taking friends at home on future back country trips 😉

  43. Lou October 20th, 2008 11:26 pm

    We’re thinking of asking Backcountry Access to sell estrogen pills along with their beacons and shovels, to counteract the testosterone factor.

  44. Christian November 19th, 2008 4:52 pm

    Nice, and thanks for putting it together.

    The question about how many times you skipped something due to conditions could be a little more clear… what about people who ‘skip’ something by never even showing up at the trailhead after a big dump or during the first hot day of spring? Similarly some people almost never ski risky things, always skiing ridge crests or valley bottoms, and therefor never turn back. I wonder if the question could be modified somehow to better represent this.

    For example, I answered this the question that I ‘skipped’ regularly because of observed conditions, but my friend (who is very conservative, far more than me) chose the ‘worse’ answer because he rarely turns back – but this is because he basically never puts himself in a position where he has to choose.

  45. Lou November 19th, 2008 5:15 pm

    Christian, thanks for the feedback, I’ll examine how that question and associated answers could be refined and clarified. Thanks, Lou

  46. Lou November 19th, 2008 6:18 pm

    I think it’s fixed. I added another answer and changed the question a bit. Included consideration for the super conservative person.

  47. Nick November 27th, 2008 10:08 pm


    Relative to this question/answer:

    If you are an experienced and educated backcountry traveler, does being in familiar avalanche terrain reduce your risk?
    Trick question, answer based on statistics that show this to frequently NOT be the case — but rather a classic gotcha.

    It’s an urban myth – not supported by statistics when the analysis is done correctly.

  48. Lou November 28th, 2008 8:42 am

    Interesting Nick, thanks for the feedback! Perhaps I think the weighting of the quiz answers handles this question. Perhaps I’ll adjust the explication. The thing is, I observe people all the time who use far less caution on familiar avalanche slopes than they would otherwise. Even done it myself.

  49. Nick November 30th, 2008 12:28 pm


    It’s true that experienced people appear to use less caution on familiar terrain than unfamiliar, just like a skilled machinist making a familiar part can seem to do the job with much less caution than a novice working on the same piece.

    And the disconcerting thing is – the number of accidents that the skilled machinist has over time can be more than the number of accidents the novice has. But that’s not necessarily because they are less careful, but because the do the job so many times more. Otherwise said, their accident RATE is low, but the the number of times they take the risk is much higher, so the absolute number of accidents is higher.

    Now think about the experienced recreational skier in familiar terrain vs. the inexperienced skier in familiar terrain (that’s what the papers that gave birth to the myth considered). First of all, what does “familiar terrain” mean to an inexperienced skier? Almost by definition, something they’ve skied a few times, maybe. But to an experienced skier, “familiar terrain” is something skied dozens or mabye hundreds of times. Say the inexperienced skier has a 10% chance of an accident in their familiar terrain, and the experienced skier a 1% chance in theirs. If the experienced skier is on their familiar terrain 100 times and the inexperienced skier 5 times, the NUMBER of accidents the experienced skier will have is 1, while the inexperienced skier only has 0.5. So if you just compare NUMBER of accidents, the experience seems to not have helped the experienced skier!

    The technical term is “base rate neglect”, and it pops up a lot in recreational avalanche statistical studies, mostly because avi people focus on number of accidents, as opposed to accident rates. It’s related to the odd fact that recreational avi research is obsessed with studying the behavior that leads to accidents, as opposed to the behavior that doesn’t. Why is that odd? Compare that to the industrial situation – companies don’t wait until they experience accidents to design safety procedures – they do time and motion studies, etc. and analyze them to see where people start to go “out of bounds”, and then develop procedures to avoid the accidents in the first place.

    Sorry for the long-winded post. Nothing much else to do – sitting in the cabin over here near Buena Vista clocking 60 mph winds moving around the small amount of snow that’s fallen – assume it’s similar on your side of the hills.


  50. Lou November 30th, 2008 12:50 pm

    Wow Nick, great points. I especially like the idea of studying behavior that is safe instead of dangerous.

    Funny, you must be reading my mind because I’ve been working on the quiz quite a bit today. We’re trying to set it up so everything has to be answered, as leaving questions unanswered throws the score way off as they get counted as a score of zero.

    1,260 quizzes taken since we re-did everything a few months ago, that’s after throwing out the scores less than about 500, which is the minimum score if all questions are answered with the lowest scoring choice. (I say “about” because I’m still making small tweaks so the number isn’t exact.)

    Average score for above was 1,570, which is at the low end of level 3. Meaning the average quiz taker has a fairly low risk of dying in an avalanche compared to the total yahoo who would score high on the quiz. Bias to quiz being answered this way is probably because most people visiting here have a pretty good idea of what constitutes low risk behavior, and practice most of what they know.

    Everyone, please know that to score at the lowest (safest) level on the quiz you have to answer that you backcountry ski a minimal amount, as well as in the lower risk snowpack areas, and also practice most of the other low-risk behavior. Thus, most people will end up scoring in the 1,000,s or above.

  51. catkfr January 15th, 2009 6:53 pm

    Nice test: it’s always interesting to challenge one’s mindset.

    I just have one comment on the risky sport/skydiving question.

    Practicing both backcountry skiing and skydiving, I actually feel the danger level is much higher in backcountry skiing. More precisely, I believe it’s much easier to become a safe skydiver than it is to become a safe backcountry skier.

    Skydiving has a very low accident rate. Those accidents are almost always due to human error (eventually involving more than one person). The environmental risk is much easier to assess for a 5 min skydive than for a day or more in the backcountry with tempting slopes with a medium to high avalanche risk.

    I can’t find numbers to support this gut feeling. But I believe that in all risky sports (including backcountry skiing), the important part is knowing the risks and making the decision of keeping your risk taking at an acceptable level. And as you mention previously: being mindful of not using this knowledge as an excuse to take more risks.

    In order to challenge a bit more the mindset of the people taking the test, I would suggest adding a fourth option to that question:
    * about the same: it may be harder to be safe in avalanche terrain then when jumping out of an airplane

  52. Laureen Mendelsohn January 29th, 2009 10:58 am

    This quiz was a lot of fun:) I am pretty conservative, so I rated a two out of five. When it comes to jumping out of a plane though, I would say it all depends on the state of mind of the person. Jumping out of an airplane or facing avalanche terrain would be dependent on your knowledge and experience, I would think. As for myself, it would also depend on the amount of panic & stress caused by the immediate situation.
    Thanks for the neat quiz & info!

  53. Dana February 17th, 2009 10:51 am

    Hi, Lou – I just took the quiz, and especially liked the question about how often you’ve said “dude!’ in the last ten days. I’m trying to put together a class on thinking errors & how they cause emergency situations at the 2009 Ski & Mountain Trauma conference in Sun Valley this fall – any chance that I could share your quiz with the class?

  54. Lou February 17th, 2009 11:13 am

    Hi Dana, it only works online as it’s web based. They can all take it if they have web connections. Not sure how it’ll hold up to a lot of concurrent users, but it can handle a few.

    The “dude” question is a bit of a red herring, but the idea is to get people thinking about what social class they are in, and perhaps how that class deals with risk sports.

    ‘best, Lou

  55. mike Mariash September 6th, 2009 7:42 pm

    The question regarding skiing through avalanche terrain all at once as a “gang” did not provide a wide enough range of answers.

    Possible answers to vary levels of risk could include:

    Skiing one at a time (always, never, or when conditions dictate)

  56. Kim November 24th, 2009 11:12 pm

    Hallo! I ski backcountry alone, but it’s mostly so conservative that it’s ridiculous. I’m very aggressive in-bounds, (used to be on the ski patrol in Colorado), but in the backcountry, it’s gentle slopes out of range of any avalanche paths (possibly by miles), on terrain that I’ve often seen in the summer. Probably my worst safety transgression is that, when skiing at Taos :alien: , I will ski alone in areas posted “backcountry terrain: do not ski alone!” But, despite an hour’s hike up Kachina peak, the “backcountry” is still patrolled, and often well-travelled by strangers.

    Anyway, the point of all this is that I scored a three, so though I think I’m wimpy about my terrain choices, I was probably hit for being alone, and not using a beacon. Anyway, I don’t know if there’s any way to tweak the quiz to account for that, or if it would represent any kind of significant cross-section of our demographic, but I thought I’d mention it.

    So, what are you doing with the data? (Sorry if you’ve already said….)

    Thanks so much for the quiz — a great way to assess one’s skill awareness! That alpha angle will be very useful (though I suspect most of mine are close to 0 — or perhaps negative)! Thanks for putting in the effort — this will help people keep themselves safe!

  57. Nick February 10th, 2010 1:36 pm

    Hi there Lou, A very interesting quiz and rightly focussing on behaviours. One small suggestion. Given the large number of ABS/Pulse bags I’m now seeing around Europe, I’d suggest adding them into the question about the Avalung – again as an indicator of people’s mindset and how much they invest in safety gear rather than the latest skis/boots

  58. inflatable April 12th, 2010 10:54 am

    The question regarding skiing through avalanche terrain all at once as a “gang” did not provide a wide enough range of answers.

    Possible answers to vary levels of risk could include:

  59. Lou April 12th, 2010 11:25 am

    Nick, good idea. Inflate, your ideas don’t show on the comment for some reason.

  60. Scott Tucker November 5th, 2010 11:27 am

    What a great article! I have taken avalanche safety classes through a ski patrol program before, but this was really interesting. Personally I prefer a Pieps Dsp over most avalance beacon, they have just seemed to work the best for me.

  61. Lynden Don December 2nd, 2010 3:57 am


    Great test to see where a person truely is on backcountry savy. I’ve been a backcountry traveler for many years and value ongoing education of Avi awareness. Remember the old saying “There are old mountaineers and bold mountaineers but there are never old and bold mountaineers.”
    Keep up the great articals

    The Northcascades Wanderer

  62. Eric February 11th, 2011 10:05 am

    Great little quiz. The questions such as “do you have formal training”, and how its answer affects your risk, are both enlightening and surprising.

    I’d like to see some references for the explanations in the discussion.

  63. howdy November 29th, 2011 12:05 pm

    is this quiz an attempt at irony? Its results are about as subjective as pit results in a continental snow pack..if it is irony, nice work..it points out that any attempt to objectively quantify human behavior is a fools paradise..considering that avalanche travel will always be in the catagory of “human behavior” trying to make the act of avalanche travel measurable, quantifiable, controlable or otherwise objective will land a fool in the paradise he seeks..if people can escape from their heavy rational brains and effectively visualize an acurate worst case scenario, like the instinctual animals they are, they might stand a chance at survival..but you probably won’t end up skiing anything good if your not willing to walk the edge near the worst case scenario..”life, unlike canned fruit, is for living not preserving”

  64. Lou November 29th, 2011 12:16 pm

    Howdy, it is designed to result in various benefits for different personality types and experience levels. Mainly, it is a tool to increase awareness. I’m not sure the results are as subjective as results in a continental snowpack, but it’s not intended to be something designed to gather statistics, only to increase awareness. Just the fact that you left an informative comment here means the quiz had one of its intended effects. Thanks, Lou

  65. howdy November 30th, 2011 11:25 am


    thanks for stirring the pot a bit..this quiz demonstrates our compulsive need for numbers and objectivety..the addition of numbers some how adds veracity..it seems like the “test your way to safety/good decisions” pardigm needs to shift..every year researchers spend time and money developing new pit stability tests, flow charts for decision making and statistics when the very intuitive idea of spatial variabilty tells us that any results are at best inconclusive if not misleading..your quiz points this out in the arena of education not equaling safety..it seems like avi ed is shifting towards the subjective realm of human behavior..as we make the shift I hope we resist the urge to bring objectivety with us..this will only create more huristics that ultimately are misleading and dangerous(i.e. ‘I dug a pit and had CTH, ECTnil’ or ‘the avi forecast is moderate’ or ‘it feels good to me’)..emptying the mind before making a decision, visualizing the worst case scenario and deciding if its a risk worth taking is the best we can ever do in avalanche terrain..beyond that we have skill, will, luck and tools to keep us happy and alive…

    thanks for stimulating thought..much respect to you for your love of the mountains


  66. vanessa February 20th, 2012 11:56 am

    Wow some people took that quiz pretty hard…super fun Lou thanks for doing it! I actually got to answer I ski with EMT’s…3 including myself!!!

  67. Ron November 3rd, 2012 11:11 pm

    “The difference in danger between maritime and continental snowpacks is immense” You might want to explain why for those who may not know.

    Good quiz! Makes you think about things we may take for granted.

  68. Jon December 7th, 2012 7:57 am

    Lou, 2 comments; I think Northeast might be added to the list of regions for maritime snowpack; in the Northeast, I understand 50% or of deaths are due to trauma, so I was puzzled by the multiple choice answers – I guess 67% is closer than 25% to 50%?

  69. Kenny G November 16th, 2013 11:56 am

    The If you’re a man, do you often travel in mixed gender groups? Lightly weighted, possible that men in mixed gender groups tend to take more risks so answers reflect that. I feel that while that may be true I also feel that most women are more risk averse and will want to ski less dangerous terrain and possibly sway the groups ski objectives for the day to a safer slope.

  70. Lou November 16th, 2013 1:35 pm

    Kenny, thanks for your feedback. The problem with your theory is that in reality (as I understand it from various stuff written about this) the more conservative women don’t speak up, but tend to get involved in situations they may not actually be comfortable with, and at the same time the men in the group actually tend to not make as good decisions when there are women present. A weird dynamic, I know. If the quiz got you thinking about this then it did its job. Thanks for taking it!


  71. Don Eberl November 18th, 2013 4:41 pm

    The quiz along with the results forces me to focus on group dynamics. I absolutely know that this can me my downfall.

    Thank you for providing. It was very enlightening.

  72. Andy B December 19th, 2013 2:12 pm

    Lou, I appreciate the emphasis on “avalanche avoidance” vs “avalanche prediction.” Avoidance is greatly affected by sound group dynamics/decision making, and you have rightly placed emphasis there. If you have three people who know avalanche terrain, and you have a level-headed discussion, with emphasis on skiing tomorrow as well as today, you are likely to take a much safer line…

  73. Charlie August 15th, 2014 12:13 am

    Works. Fun to reflect on how my answers have changed since this came out.

    Thank you for moving to SSL. There’s a reason people press for HTTPS Everywhere.

  74. Israeli skier August 15th, 2014 4:46 am

    Great quiz. Thank you, Lou, for allowing the access. I did get evaluation of my understanding in avalanches.

  75. Lou Dawson 2 August 15th, 2014 7:26 am

    Hi Charlie, thanks for checking it out. I’ve really enjoyed working on the Quiz over the years and know it’s helped a lot of people (including myself and our family) hone their avalanche safety skills. Now that I’ve got it working, I’ll look at adding a few more questions and tweaking the scoring. Perhaps a few questions about shovels and shovel technique. It’s not perfect and it’s by no means scientific, just a fun way to get ourselves thinking.

    HTTPS Everywhere is going to be interesting to watch. The tragic thing is it wasn’t just the default internet from the gitgo. I still think it’s incredibly strange the web was not built with more inherent security. I mean, what were they thinking? Just the fact that with HTTP someone can easily read everything you do online in a coffee shop, including reading the passwords you keyboard, will probably be looked at in a few years as one of the dumbest things ever. It’s like, who invented the ‘net and how smart were they, really?

    And the fact that email is not encrypted and is probably read by everyone from the government to the janitor at Google — that’s another weirdness which is nearly unreal. Yes, Gore did not invent the internet, and he’s probably glad he didn’t. The guys that did need to apologize for the mess they created.


  76. Lou Dawson 2 August 15th, 2014 7:32 am

    Israeli Skier, thanks for visiting! I was indeed country blocking Israel as the ratio of attack traffic to legit was looking problematic, but happy to experiment if there are legit website visitors such as yourself who reside in your country. Please let your ski touring friends know about WildSnow. Lou

  77. Tabke August 17th, 2014 10:51 pm

    Such a great exercise.

    A note on the region (continental or maritime) question. While we are very familiar with why the continental snowpack is more dangerous, we’ve seen a lot of fatal accidents in the Northwest in past years. Cascades terrain can be terribly dangerous (steep, huge cornices, substantial gullies virtually everywhere). I feel the focus on snow science glosses over the importance of terrain management.

  78. Lou Dawson 2 August 18th, 2014 7:02 am

    Tabke, the snow climate question is based on statistics of which regions have the most avalanche deaths due to storm slabs as well as deep persistent slab. It’s a reality I can’t fudge. It’s about where a person does their skiing, and the overall odds. The quiz is not meant to imply that maritime is ultra safe, only that typical backcountry skiing in maritime as compared to e.g. Utah or Colorado is significantly safer in terms of avalanche exposure, based on the numbers.

    Also, remember this is an avalanche safety exercise, by intent I included very little regarding possibility of falls in steep terrain, though perhaps I could add a question about cornices and related route choice.

    I could perhaps also add a question that tests for thought about choosing high consequence vs lower consequence routes when possible, rather than blundering. On the other hand, in my opinion it’s unknown how much those sorts of choices really influence outcomes in medium to larger size avalanches. In other words, I think there is a lot of theory and assumption involved in this, and in terms of figuring a slide might be survivable due to terrain choice many of us operate on heuristics that many have little to no basis in reality. Point being that adding quiz questions about this is tough because I don’t have a good sense of what’s real, as opposed to things like the fact that head injuries do occur in avalanches (hence the helmet question), and that yes, judging from the numbers you are less likely to be involved in an avalanche accident if you ski in maritime snowpack as opposed to mid-continental.

    In any case, thanks for adding your quiz session to the database!


  79. Jim Milstein August 25th, 2014 9:16 pm

    When skiing solo I seldom take a beacon, which I think are overrated anyway. When skiing with partners, who are usually careful and knowledgeable, I take a beacon since they do. I wonder whether the net effect of safety gear is increased safety. Sometimes the opposite of safety results. Also, when skiing solo, I’m more cautious, or so I think. That doesn’t make it safer though.

  80. Jim Milstein August 25th, 2014 9:20 pm


    than skiing with companions.

  81. Mark Worley August 26th, 2014 9:07 pm

    If you have a beacon while skiing solo, it may help in locating you later on.

  82. Jim Milstein August 27th, 2014 7:37 am

    “If you have a beacon while skiing solo, it may help in locating you later on.”

    Locating my corpse would not interest me enough to carry a beacon. Others may feel otherwise about their corpses. My big interest is to enjoy skiing without becoming a corpse.

  83. Mark Worley August 27th, 2014 3:25 pm

    Not becoming a corpse is key, however, you might wear a beacon with others in mind who might want to recover your corpse, like your family. By the way, I ski solo a lot. Nearly always I have a beacon on myself. Just my way of doing it.

  84. Andrea August 26th, 2015 6:05 am

    I really like the idea of a quiz that gives you an opportunity to learn and make you aware of both knowledge gaps that you have and of your personal risk profile (even if that risk profile is far from complete). I think that the explanations to the answers are relatively informative, but I would like to know exactly how each score is weighted in the overall score. I’m mainly skiing in north Norway and Sweden and it would be interesting to adjust the test for our local circumstances. Is the weighting matrix available somewhere?


  85. Lou Dawson 2 August 26th, 2015 6:32 am

    Hi Andrea, the weighting is not available. I try to keep the quiz not too regional, though it is of course a bit biased to the u.s., we are indeed a global website, perhaps I’ll modify quiz or put in a disclaimer. Lou

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