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Janice P. Wittstrom
Instructor
jwittstrom@mtroyal.ca
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Mount Royal University
Double Black Diamond Slopes: Risky Business?

This case study tells the story of a 14-year-old boy, "Danny," who wants to go on a snowboarding adventure with his friends, but is unable to provide any details when asking his parents for permission. Danny is understandably excited, although completely unaware of the risks associated with being a beginner at a major ski resort with limited, if any, adult supervision. Students are asked to identify the risks involved in such a trip and to identify the information needed in order for his parents to make an informed decision about his participation. The story introduces the concept of "acceptable risk," which depends on an individual's subjective appraisal, and "risk assessment," which can be objectively investigated or measured.  These definitions are used to introduce risk concepts into an undergraduate level geological hazards class focusing on floods, earthquakes, landslides and other "hazardous" geological processes. This case study could also be adapted to any course at the high school or undergraduate level where an understanding of planning, insurance, or control is necessary to protect people, structures or habitat.