Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the United States

This document was produced through the cooperative efforts of the American Avalanche Association (A3) and the Forest Service National Avalanche Center. Commonly known as SWAG, its creation involved a working group from a broad cross section of avalanche workers in the U.S. getting input from the general membership of A3 and cooperation from the Canadian Avalanche Association. The first version was written in 2004, while the current version is 2010. We expect to update this working document every five to ten years.

This electronic copy is not printable, and is meant to be a resource for folks to check out the guidelines, view the contents, and do electronic searches. Bound hard copy of the document can be purchased through the American Avalanche Association at their virtual store. The additional forms and charts at the bottom of this page are printable.

For an article on the creation of this document (published in the 2004 Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop) click here.

Introduction - includes the Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Manual Snow and Weather Observations
Chapter 2 - Snowpack Observations
Chapter 3 - Avalanche Observations
Appendix A-References
Appendix B-Units
Appendix C-Metadata
Appendix D-Observational sites for meteorological measurements
Appendix E (Part 1 and Part 2)-Automated weather stations
Appendix F (Part 1 and Part 2-ICSI classification for seasonal snow cover on the ground
Appendix G-Avalanche danger, hazard, and snow stability scales
Appendix H-Reporting avalanche involvements
Appendix I-Symbols and abbreviations

Printable Forms and Charts

Avalanche accident reporting form - Long form
Avalanche accident reporting form - Short form
Avalanche data codes
Conversion tables
Sample datalogger programs
Snow profile forms
Ram Field Sheet
Ram Calculation Sheet

Please send contents, corrections and suggestions to:
Jaime Musnicki
American Avalanche Association, Executive Director
P.O. Box 248
Victor, ID 83455
(307) 699-2049

Supplementary Material

IACS Snow Classification (including crystal photos and snow crystal fonts)
The 2009 revision of the international snow classsification system can be viewed on this website, and you can also download the revised font set in either TrueType, OpenType or Adobe Type 1 formats.
A great resource for one-stop shop for avalanche information in the United States. Links to Avalanche Centers and Advisories in the U.S. and worldwide. Best source of information for U.S. avalanche accidents. Locate an avalanche course provider near you.

Forest Service National Avalanche Center
More information on snow and avalanche phenomena can be found on the Technology Transfer
section of the NAC's website.

Canadian Avalanche Association
A great resource for avalanche information in Canada.

Snow Crystal Physics at the California Institute of Technology
A great resource on snow crystal formation.

Snow Measuring Equipment and Snowpit Kits

Snowpit Technologies
Winter Engineering
Backcountry Access

Field Notebooks

Snowpit Technologies
Hacksaw Publishing
AIARE Field Notebook
Rite in the Rain

Snow Profile Software


Automated Weather Stations and Sensors

Campbell Scientific
Judd Communications