History of the ISSW

The International Snow Science Workshop has its roots in meetings held informally in the 50s and early 60's when practioners realized the importance of interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and experiences. The first meeting that brought together government agencies, industries, and users dedicated both to snow and avalanche science was held in April, 1960 at Santa Fe, New Mexico following the 28th Annual Meeting of the Western Snow Conference. About 30 participants spent two days discussing avalanche control methods led in part by Monty Atwater. In 1969, the Snow and Ice Subcommittee of the Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research of the National Research Council of Canada added a meeting on avalanches to one of its periodic conferences attracting 188 participants and 12 papers. In 1971, Dr. Ed LaChapelle organized an informal gathering in Seattle that encouraged exchanges between researchers and practioners. This led to a number of meetings in the US and Canada in the 70s, including Workshops in Banff (1976) and Vancouver (1980) that that were increasingly attended and somewhat more formal.

In 1982, the snow study group at Montana State University organised a meeting that emphasised the importance of interaction and exchanges between practitioners and researchers. This group was chaired by John Montagne who used special invitations to bring together scientists and practical workers in snow and avalanches. This group created the title "International Snow Science Workshop." In addition, they coined the motto of the Workshop "A Merging of Theory and Practice," which continues to this day. At ISSW in 1982, an informal meeting of interested parties was held during the conference to discuss the possibilities of holding ISSW on a regular basis. Aspen, Colorado and Seattle, Washington were offered as possible sites in 1984.

ISSW steering committee is born.

Two years later, in Aspen, Colorado, the next ISSW was presented. At this meeting the ISSW Steering Committee was created to provide guidance for future ISSW's. A biennial rotation of the Workshop through the western North American mountain region was established with every 3rd meeting in Canada. Two representatives were appointed from each of four US regions and two Canadian regions. Subsequently, the Chairman of each ISSW has become chairman of the Steering Committee at the next ISSW and then remained a voting member, thereafter. In addition, there is a Secretary of the Steering Committee which helps provide a point of contact and helps maintain continuity in the organisation. John Montagne served as Secretary from the inception until 2000 when Rich Marriott accepted the position.

The Steering Committee has maintained an informal organisation, meeting only at ISSWs, primarily to consider bids from future host sites. Over the years the attendance has grown from 220 people including 10 foreign participants in Bozeman to over 800 people representing 20 countries in Whistler, BC in 2008. In 2009, the first European ISSW was held in Davos, Switzerland. This meeting was great success attracting over 550 participants from 24 countries. In 2012 ISSW was held for the first time in Alaska in Anchorage.

In 2013 the second European ISSW took place in Grenoble, France. The Steering Committee will evaluate ISSW 2013 and determine if it should become part of the regular ISSW rotation.

The Steering Committee has evolved a series of requirements for future hosts and hosting sites including affordability, minimum capacity of facilities, and the necessity to encourage the participation of practioners in the presentations. The Steering Committee decided in 2002 to try to increase its profile at ISSWs and on the Internet to encourage a continuing interest from future hosting sites and to provide a permanent link to past ISSWs and past ISSW presentations. This led to the current ISSW Steering Committee site containing the history of earlier ISSWs and information on future Workshops. In addition, the Committee attempts to have sites scheduled approximately 4 years in advance. In Squaw Valley approval was given to a group from Banff, Alberta to host ISSW 2014, this is now confirmed for September 28 - Oct 3, 2014. ISSW 2016 has now been confirmed for Breckenridge, Colorado, dates yet to be confirmed.

In 2010, Professor Stephan Custer of Montana State University (MSU) proposed to the Steering Committee that the University undertake to provide all of the ISSW Proceedings digitally on the Internet, hosted by the MSU Digital Library. In teleconferences with the Secretary of ISSW, it was proposed that MSU would undertake a two phase process: first developing a standard format for a fully searchable database presented in pdf format and modifying existing Proceedings that are already in digital format. And a second phase requiring the scanning of earlier hard copy Proceedings into searchable pdf format and presenting them using the database format. As of March 2012, the database format is finalized and the proceedings are now online at: http://arc.lib.montana.edu/snow-science/.

Acknowledgement

Special thanks to John Montagne and Peter Schaerer for information on the early meetings - much of which was taken from their paper in the Proceedings of the ISSW 1994, in Snowbird, I.S.S.W Past, Present, and Future. Additional information was taken from "The History of ISSW and the ISSW Steering Committee", by Richard Marriott in the Proceedings of ISSW 2006, in Telluride, Colorado.


For Information about ISSW contact: isswsteering@gmail.com