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New MSU study asking why people take risks with avalanches

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BOZEMAN- With Montana ranking high in the number of annual avalanche deaths, a new study out of MSU seeks to understand why backcountry enthusiasts take risks in dangerous conditions.

Since 2007, 38 people died in avalanches in Montana, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

A press release from MSU issued Feb. 5 says to address the rise of avalanche deaths nationwide, a new project called White Heat brings together a political science professor, an earth sciences professor and a Swedish behavioral economist.

Andrea Mannberg, the economist, studies why people take risks that could cost them their lives. She’s teaming up with Jordy Hendrikx, a professor and director of the Snow and Avalanche Lab at MSU, and Jerry Johnson, an MSU political scientist.

The scientists have personal experience with how dangerous the backcountry can be—Hendrikx lost one of his undergraduate snow science students in a deadly avalanche in 2015.

In 2014, Mannberg survived an avalanche that was triggered while she and some friends were skiing in the Swedish backcountry. Mannberg broke both legs, a rib and cracked her chin.

Mannberg is quoted as saying, “That was a true wakeup call that my decisions in the backcountry weren’t always the right ones, even though I see myself as very conservative in my decision-making.”

As part of the new White Heat study, backcountry skiers and snowmobilers of any experience level or age are invited to contribute. Click here to take the project survey and submit GPS tracking information of your trips. You can also read more about the project here

Click here to read MSU’s press release with more details about the study.

Photo courtesy MSU. Hendrikx, center, Mannberg, right.

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