AspectAvy: Revolutionizing Backcountry Safety with Preventative Avalanche Technology

Jeff Banks, an internationally certified mountain guide and the co-founder of AspectAvy, brings a wealth of experience to the table. With two decades of teaching avalanche courses to a diverse range of individuals, including mountain guides, U.S. Special Forces and recreational enthusiasts, Banks’ expertise is unmatched. His personal connection to backcountry skiing runs deep, marked by a North American ski mountaineering championship and a harrowing avalanche survival story in Italy that served as a catalyst for change.


Photos courtesy of AspectAvy.

While on a ski tour across the Italian slopes, Banks was leading a group through well-trodden terrain. “My former examiner in the guide program was five minutes ahead of me with the other clients when the slope fractured at my feet. I thought we were dead,” Banks recalls. It was 1,800 feet of heart-stopping descent. Miraculously unharmed, they sought solace in a mountain hut, beers in hand. Banks pondered the collective error, realizing current methods were inadequate. This revelation ignited a mission: to revolutionize backcountry safety.

The inspiration behind AspectAvy is rooted in a sobering reality — the loss of friends and colleagues to avalanch adventurees. Banks’ extensive network of mountain guides and avalanche forecasters attest to the frequency of near-death experiences in their line of work. In 2021, 37 lives were lost by avalanches in the United States, marking the highest fatality rate in the history of backcountry recreation.

“The Vail Valley has lost its share of friends and loved ones,” Banks says. “AspectAvy is listening.”

Understanding the fear and confusion that plague backcountry travelers, AspectAvy was born out of a deep empathy for their plight. Launched in November 2023, this user-centered app seeks to simplify the process of staying safe in the backcountry, offering a lifeline to those who venture into avalanche-prone terrain.

The app shifts the focus from reactive avalanche gear to preventative measures. By overlaying real-time avalanche conditions onto precision laser maps and running it through a proprietary algorithm, AspectAvy provides users with clear, data-driven guardrails. The result is a highly effective preventative tool that can increase survival odds.


But, AspectAvy isn’t just for seasoned skiers and snowboarders; it’s for everyone who desires to explore the winter backcountry safely, even dog walkers. In fact, Banks says dog walkers accounted for half of avalanche deaths two winters ago. AspectAvy ensures that even the most vulnerable members of mountain communities can enjoy the outdoors without unnecessary risk.

“When my daughter looks at AspectAvy, it shows high risk avalanche terrain 500 feet from our house by the kid’s sledding hill,” Banks shares. “Many of the local kids have been lucky to survive avalanches there. Now, my 10-year-old daughter can see where it’s safe to play with her friends.”

To bring this concept to life, Banks collaborated with a team of experts. Co-founder JB Leach, an award-winning product designer with over 25 years of experience, spearheaded the technology team. Angela Hawse, president of the American Mountain Guides Association, is the voice of AspectAvy in the video tutorials. The U.S. Special Forces Mountain Guide Team out of Fort Carson in Colorado Springs conducted extensive field testing, underscoring the app’s effectiveness in high-risk conditions.

Joel Gratz of, another staunch supporter of the project, recognizes the app’s potential to address a complex problem in the ski community. “[Gratz] saw a complex problem we all share in the ski community and created a simple solution to show us where the good snow is. AspectAvy shows us where the safe snow is. It’s the perfect combo,” Banks explains.