AspectAvy is a new app coming this fall that aims to eliminate avalanche fatalities in the backcountry. The tool aims to prevent 100% of avalanche fatalities by providing decision-making resources that take human error out of backcountry travel.
How does it work?
AspectAvy has researched avalanches and avalanche death data over the last several decades. The app merges this data with a specific day’s avalanche forecast to create an algorithm for what a safe day in the backcountry will look like. The creators envision the app will make a day in the backcountry as safe as driving your car.
First, the app will consider the avalanche danger rating for the day. A defined relationship exists between the avalanche danger rating and the slope angle where avalanches occur. Secondly, the app will analyze the avalanche problem(s). There is an overwhelming relationship between the problem(s) and where accidents occur. This information will help the backcountry traveler know where to go and what slopes are safe.
This algorithm can be overlayed with the terrain map to show a route for a low-risk tour. This technology is available mainly due to the relatively recent advent of LIDAR (light detection and ranging). Because of LIDAR, much of the mountain west has been precisely mapped down to sections as small as two meters by two meters.
Another valuable part of the app is the “coaching” portion. The “coach” guides users through all the steps that should be taken by anyone venturing into avalanche terrain. It begins with the planning phase, gear check, and beacon check, then moves on to monitoring the route during the tour, confirming slopes before descent, and even gives a debrief at the end of the tour, providing feedback on the user’s decisions and risk-taking.
What will it cost?
The app will cost $40, likely more expensive than most other apps on your phone. However, it is hardly a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of other gear in your backcountry setup. Plus, it doesn’t weigh anything, and can you put a price on safety?
The creators hope to bring on investors to offer the app free to search and rescue members, avalanche forecasters, and avalanche center members. After all, those are the ones doing the hard work and putting themselves in harm’s way to keep others safe.
The app is not a substitute for proper avalanche safety training. However, even with years of backcountry experience, making the right decision every day and time is impossible. The terrain and variables involved are just too complex and diverse. This is where the app can eliminate blind spots and human error to improve backcountry travelers’ planning and processes that will effectively manage their risk.
The app is sure to evolve, and AspectAvy needs the help of the backcountry community. If you want to be a partner, investor, or beta tester or have general questions, fill out the contact form here.