The International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) is a biennial meeting of theprofessionals who work in the field of snow science and winter recreation. This is the only such conference which takes place and has been ongoing since 1976. It is truly international with participants from countries world wide where winter sports are popular. Professionals from Europe, Russia, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North and South America are in attendance. The workshop is designed to bring together practitioners such as ski patrollers and mountain guides, forecasters who may work for ski companies, Departments of Transportation or the US Forest Service, engineers from mining companies, architecture firms or government, scientists who teach and research snow science and others who participate in the world of snow. In addition, it provides an opportunity for local mountain user groups to participate in a higher level learning environment. The conference is designed to promote the exchange of ideas and research and introduce the latest forecasting tools and winter products.
With winter sports in the backcountry growing each year, the hazard to enthusiasts is increasing. Snowboarding, hi-tech snow machines and fat skis have all contributed to the popularity of winter recreation. This is no longer the sole domain of a small group of telemarkers. Heli skiing and Cat skiing have grown in popularity and the terrain being accessed is steeper and more remote than ever before.
In Alaska industrial activities are common in mountainous environments with avalanche risk. Additionally, it is common in Alaska for workers to engage in off-time recreational activities that expose them to avalanche risk. Many companies are proactive in terms of providing educational opportunities to employees because of this off-shift risk.
While avalanche injuries and fatalities continue on the rise, the vast majority of these incidents are preventable. The professionals who attend the ISSW have dedicated their lives to education, forecasting, and communication with the backcountry using public. Their work saves lives and promotes safe winter backcountry travel for winter enthusiasts. Not only is ISSW an opportunity for peer to peer interaction, but also an opportunity for backcountry users to interact with the leading professionals in the industry.