Observational Guidelines

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.

The document:

Introduction - includes the Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Manual Snow and Weather Observations

Chapter 2 - Snowpack Observations

Chapter 3 - Avalanche Observations


AppendicesAppendix 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) (IACS 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)

Additional Forms and Charts:

Avalanche accident reporting form (short form)

Avalanche accident reporting form (long form)

IACS Snow Classification (including crystal photos and snow crystal fonts)

Conversion charts

Snow profile forms

Additional resources:

Excel spreadsheet for RAM penetrometer calculations