As snow returns to the mountains, an international conference on snow science is taking place in Central Oregon. From researchers to avalanche forecasters, this event is a who’s who in the snow world.
The International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) has brought 1,100 attendees and speakers from 16 countries to the High Desert. All are top-notch in their fields, sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas.
The conference is so packed, many of the attendees at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes sit on the floor during the lectures.
“Each day feels like a firehose of information,” said Mary Gianotti from the Alaska Avalanche School.
“How does this information affect decisions we make in the field,” said The Avalanche Review Editor Lynne Wolfe.
Some of the proceeds from the conference will benefit the Central Oregon Avalanche Center, which started full-time forecasting across the Central Cascades last season.
“This knowledge coming in here, there’s an expertise is only going to elevate that center,” said ISSW co-chair Zoe Roy.
Advances in science and technology helps forecasters, but climate change is dealing them a wild card.
“You’ve seen the huge recession are glaciers, which actually changes our avalanche terrain,” said one avalanche forecaster.
“Last year alone where we were at in Tahoe suggested there’s definitely some differences in what’s taking place in terms of our weather patterns,” said Heavenly Resort Snow Safety Tech Andrew Rump.
“Uncharted territory. So it’s just another layer of difficulty,” said retired avalanche forecaster Liam Fitzgerald.
“It’s a really big conversation. It’s definitely linked to the snow and what that means for avalanches,” Gianotti said.
“Sometimes just surprises us that certain situations appeared that early in the season,” said Matthias Walcher, an avalanche forecaster from Austria.
Science aside, it’s the connections made at this event that are so important.
“Every time people get together like that, knowledge is elevated, like over and over and over information,” Roy said.
Information that the sitting-room only crowd soaks in to keep people safe for winters to come.
“They’re a bunch of snow nerds, like in the best possible way,” Roy said.
The event continues through Friday. Day tickets are available at the Riverhouse.
Next year’s event will be in Norway.