Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in the Avalanche Patch - by Bruce Kay

Author Bruce Kay explores this puzzle in Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Drawing from the experiences of his peers and his own 35 years as a climber, skier and avalanche professional, Kay explains why avalanche country demands a unique mindset of managing risk by consideration of the unknown as much as the known. He explores related topics, including:

  • The Siren Song of Culture
  • Intuition and Bias – what is the difference
  • Optimism and Luck – do we roll the dice or calculate risk?
  • The Expert Illusion
  • Strategic Mindset

Using the work of Ian McCammon, Gary Klein and the Nobel Prize winning Daniel Kahnemen, Kay shows how the avalanche problem is nearly perfectly designed to produce errors in judgement, yet still provide opportunity for solution. This is brought to life using case studies and adrenaline – pumping stories from fellow professionals and recreationists. He warns that his book may at times “demand a bit more of the reader than the average ski video,” but if truly interested in surviving to ski another day, this book is for you.

“Bruce distills the current research in decision making, and applies it to the avalanche enigma as experienced by advanced recreationalists and professionals. I recommend Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in the Avalanche Patch as a worthy summary of the human factors, especially the use, place and value of intuition.”
― SCOTT FLAVELLE, internationally certified mountain guide, avalanche professional, wilderness film producer.

“The case histories show us that experience does not make us invulnerable to risk. We also need situational awareness, respect for uncertainty and recognition of the consequence if we are proven to be wrong.”
― CHRIS STETHEM, Past President of the Canadian Avalanche Association, Avalanche Canada Foundation and Chris Stethem & Associates Ltd.


This is the best avalanche safety book you will ever read about the psychology of risk-taking behavior that applies not just to avalanche risk but all of life’s important decision-making from playing the stock market to love and politics.