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 White Risk Avalanche Education CD Review

Interactive Learning

 

Rating:

 

What's Good: the use of multimedia is a spectacular idea, and it works very well. The CD is packed full of valuable information. 

 

What's to Improve: a better way to track what parts of program you've missed looking at. 

 

 

White Risk is an interactive learning CD that provides education and training on the prevention of avalanche accidents. It is available in English, Dutch, and French.

It is packed full of interactive animations, photos, film-clips, and exercises to provide an overview of the subject. Topics covered are organized from simple to complex, making it an easy tool for beginners and professionals.

The programís menu is always available on the left side of your computer screen. The first item, Essentials, conveniently brings together links to all of the key information on the CD onto one screen, so if you donít want to thoroughly explore the entire CD, you can get the highlights easily.

The next menu item is where the real learning begins with coverage of Danger Levels. It specifically covers the five level European scale and gives interesting statistics as to accidents at the various levels and also explains the European avalanche bulletin. Since the North American scale is also five levels, the information is still interesting for people in the Americas to check out as it seems to map reasonably well. Obviously theyíd want to check out their local avalanche associations to fully understand the scale and bulletins in use in their area.

The next section covers the different avalanche types, with photos and videos, as well as the risk that each presents to backcountry users.

The En Route section goes into the different stages of planning that backcountry users should go through when preparing for or during a trip and the different phases at which they should be assessing conditions. There are so many pieces of information and factors to evaluate with regards to avalanche risk, new backcountry users often feel overwhelmed by it all and have trouble piecing it all together during decision making. White Risk helps to mitigate this by going over the idea of the 3x3 Filter to help process terrain and snowpack, weather, and human factors on three levels to make sense of it all and come up with a decision. This tool is somewhat like the Avaluator decision-making tool used in Canada where I am from. Regardless of where you are located, tools like this seem to greatly help, so itís good to be familiar with at least one.

The next section introduces factors which influence avalanche formation and has an interactive learning tool called the DangerAnalyser which allows you to modify these factors to see how they each interact with each other to reduce or increase avalanche potential. Itís certainly quite technical, but very interesting. They make it clear that this is a general learning tool and not to be used for decision making. 

Following this section is a Miscellaneous area with analysis of a collection of historical accidents, which always seems to be helpful to learn from, as well as links to further information on the internet, and a section which dispels common, widespread misconceptions and provides some rules of thumb.

Rounding out the CD is a final section that provides excellent interactive exercises to test your comprehension of the material from each section. For example, you are asked to assess slopes from photos and plan routes by looking at maps and photos. It seems like an excellent start to get you using what youíve learned on the CD and to simply get your mind thinking in the correct way.

Despite the attractiveness of the interface, I had some trouble keeping track of where I was in the program. There is so much information that you can easily begin clicking through link after link, and lose sight of where you were originally, what youíd gone through, and what you had yet to explore. Itís much like surfing the web in that way. In one way itís good because you have freedom to follow what interests you at the time. There is a back button as well as a cascading set of windows to help you to keep track of where you are, but I still felt like I needed to draw a map to keep track of what links I had skipped looking at because I didnít want to miss out on any - and some critical information as a result. It does have a history menu item so you can see where youíve been, so if they simply supplemented it with a full list of all topics and simply just put a checkmark next to where youíve been, I think that would solve the problem completely. Youíd be able to quickly see if youíve missed out on any sections of the program.

Overall, White Risk is a very eye-pleasing piece of software, packed with a huge volume of information, and it delivers that information in ways that keep the user interested and involved. When I first read about it, I thought it was a brilliant concept to leverage the multimedia power of computers to aid in the avalanche education process. White Risk comes close to pulling it off perfectly.

While White Risk is no substitute for taking an avalanche course or training, itís a great tool for backcountry users of all levels to use as one more source of learning. 

White Risk is available for purchase from their website:

www.whiterisk.org

Learning about factors that influence avalanches.

The effects of wind are demonstrated with video and animation.

How we go about assessing terrain.

An exercise in chosing routes. Which would be the best? The worst?

 

 

 

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