Item: Avalanche forecaster exchange program u.s. – switzerland
Title: Avalanche forecaster exchange program u.s. – switzerland
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 2004 International Snow Science Workshop, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Authors: Matt Hill, Mount Shasta Avalanche Center, USDA Forest Service, Mt. Shasta City, CA, U.S.A. Thomas Wiesinger Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland Doug Abromeit USDA Forest Service National Avalanche Center, K
Abstract: The exchange program for avalanche forecasters between the U.S. and Switzerland was developed in 2003. Since 2004 the three authors have been on exchange. The objective of this program is to exchange knowledge, experience and techniques between avalanche specialists. So far we have found the following analogies and differences between Switzerland and the U.S. Analogies: The way forecasts are produced is similar – data is gathered and interpreted by an avalanche specialist. Models to calculate the avalanche hazard are not yet used operationally. All of us depend on high quality field and weather observations. We cooperate with national weather services and we operate our own weather stations. Users: For the most part in the U.S., forecast centers forecast for recreational users, except for the Northwest Avalanche Center and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center which also forecast for highway programs. The recreationists in the U.S. rate the snow pack discussion and weather forecast as a priority. In Switzerland all groups threatened by avalanches, including roads, railways, and villages are addressed. The issued hazard category is very important. Observers: U.S. observations mostly come from volunteers or modestly paid observers. Switzerland has a dense network of paid observers with well defined guidelines and annual training courses. Forecasters: U.S. forecasters tend to have experience as ski patrollers or guides along with some academic training. They are typically employed about six months per year and spend about 50 to 75 percent of their time in the field. Swiss forecasters tend to have an advanced academic degree with limited experience as ski patrollers or guides. They are employed year around, and typically spend 10 percent of their time in the field and 90 percent developing advisories and performing other duties. Hazard Scale: Both countries use a five level avalanche danger scale, and the definitions vary slightly.
Keywords: avalanche forecasting
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