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

Photo by John Stimberis


This document, commonly known as SWAG, was produced through the cooperative efforts of the American Avalanche Association (AAA) and the Forest Service National Avalanche Center. We consulted with a working group comprised of a broad cross-section of avalanche workers in the U.S., the general membership of the AAA, and the Canadian Avalanche Association while creating SWAG. The first version was published in 2004, the second edition in 2010, and the current edition in 2016. 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. The 2016 edition now has a clickable table of contents to make searching the document more efficient. Bound hard copies of SWAG can be purchased through the AAA’s online 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.

Please send contents, corrections and suggestions to:

Jaime Musnicki
American Avalanche Association, Executive Director
P.O. Box 248
Victor, ID 83455
(307) 699-2049

SWAG – 2016 Edition

View a digital copy or purchase the hard copy.

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Snow and Weather Avalanche Guidelines


The following changes were implemented in the Fall of 2016 for the Third Edition. View the 2010 version here.

  • The language was improved for accuracy and consistency in the use of “fracture” versus “crack”.
  • The use of Fracture Character and Shear Quality ratings for the ECT and PST tests is discouraged as redundant information.
  • The “+1” caveat in the ECT procedure was eliminated.
  • Advice was added to the ECT and CT Test procedures regarding removing a failed portion of the column.
  • Advice was added to the ECT and CT Test procedures regarding removing a wedge of snow from the top of the column.
  • Wording was removed from the PST test description indicating that cut length may vary with slope angle.
  • The data code VAR was added for describing variable estimated wind direction.
  • The pencil hardness standard was changed to represent penetration of the blunt end of a pencil, not the sharp end.
  • Section 2.7 sub-headings were reorganized for consistency. “Interpretation” sub-headings were removed.
  • There are numerous photo updates.
  • The Glossary was revised.
  • The Sample Avalanche Hazard Scale for Transportation Corridors was updated.
  • The CAIC contact information was updated.
  • The Stuffblock Test was deprecated. Information on the test is available through the AAA.
  • The sample code for Campbell Scientific dataloggers was deprecated. Information on the test is available through the AAA.
  • The riming modifier is now allowed when coding the DF class of surface snow (DFr).
  • The entire document was reformatted.
  • All Figures separately replaced and reformatted
  • ICSSG SnowSymbolsIACS font added to document
  • Normalize Notes
  • Add figure references to text

Printable Forms & Charts

Related Links & Resources