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Avalanches: Fit young men at risk

Jill Colton, staff writer

Physically fit, young, confident men are most likely to get caught in deadly avalanches, according to a study conducted at the University of Calgary.

Certain personality traits are drawn to risky behaviour
Certain personality traits are drawn to risky behaviour

Despite the threat of avalanches, some people continue to roam the terrain regardless of the risk involved. According to Albi Sole, Program Coordinator of the Public Avalanche Awareness Programs at the Outdoor Centre for the University of Calgary, “physically fit, confident men between the ages of 25 to 30 are more at risk than women to get caught in a deadly avalanche.”

The findings are based on a survey that was conducted by the University that looked at about 450 backcountry skiers. The analysis looked at their chances of being involved in an avalanche based on specific characteristics.

“There are a series of personality traits that everyone has, but we have them at different levels. These are things like searching for intense experiences, searching for new experiences, extrovertedness. Some of these traits are specifically satisfied by being in the backcountry, and likely these are things we need in the same sort of way we need food or water. People are willing to take risks to satisfy these needs.”

A group of men increases the risk of dangerous decisions.

Numerous avalanche related deaths have been reported this year
Numerous avalanche related deaths have been reported this year

“Men who actually travel with other men, as opposed to with women, are at a greater threat. Men that travel with women are influenced by the women's risk.”

Sole says that anyone who wants to experience the backcountry should take an avalanche course.

“People need to learn how to do this safely. There's really no difference here than common activities like driving -- we have to learn how to do it safely.”

However, those with the experience and training tend to be those that get themselves into trouble.

“People with training take more risks than people without training,” says Sole. “Before they take the training they feel very exposed and intimated because they know nothing, but once they have the training they expose themselves and take greater risks.”

Sole believes there's good reason why people are so apt to take risks.

“We take risks in all activities we're involved in. We take risks because we want to get things for ourselves and get benefits. It's well recognized that the greater the benefits the greater the risk we're willing to take to get those benefits. There's a large body of research that shows that people outdoors enjoy improved psychological health, people that are physically active enjoy enormous gains across a wide body of characteristics. These activities in the backcountry are probably part of a really healthy lifestyle for these people.”

With files from CTV Edmonton.

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