The third European ISSW was held in Innsbruck, Austria. The setting was spectacular, and the weather was sunny and warm.
The Workshop was held in the “Congress Innsbruck” Facility which was a good fit for the large number of participants. As usual, numerous groups held meetings in the Conference Center during the weekend preceding the start of ISSW.
The main Hall could accommodate all of the registrants and a comfortable area was available for the commercial exhibits, coffee breaks and the afternoon social hour. The poster area was sufficiently large to keep all of the posters up through the week. There was also a funicular/gondola station just outside the conference center that could whisk you up over 2,000 meters into the Alps.
It was packed and many times there were several things happening as once. Organizers tried to not overlap similar topics but, as has been the case in the past with concurrent presentations of any kind (first tried at ISSW 1994 in Snowbird), some attendees felt frustrated by not being able to attend all they would like. However, over 400 abstracts were submitted, making it difficult to fit even half of them into the normal 4 days of presentations without concurrent sessions.
The sessions ran from 8AM to 6PM. Mornings were typical, with oral presentations, followed by brief questions and answers. Topics were generally broad based. However, following each session there was an author’s corner where the presenters and attendees could gather for more discussion or questions.
Afternoons had several options. There were two concurrent sessions covering more specialized topics. Rather than brief questions afterwards, all the presenters would hold a 10-15 minute panel discussion – similar to the workshops held at ISSW 2016.
Each Session had two chairs. And at the end of the session, one of the chairs would summarize all of the posters on that session’s topic in the coming afternoon. This was made entertaining by an artist sketching something representative of each group of posters (projected on the main screen). This helped keep everyone engaged during a mainly non- visual 10 or 15 minutes.
Although all of the posters remained up all week, each day at the poster sessions, the group of posters pertaining to that days topics were highlighted and an author answered questions. As usual the poster sessions were presented with “refreshments”!
A unique addition to ISSW 2018 were the afternoon training courses, offered during the concurrently with the afternoon special topics sessions. These training courses were offered on two different topics each day. Organizers said they were meant to “… give attendees professional development opportunities by teaching the state of the art.” Every attendee was allowed to register for just one course and most of them were filled.
Still another innovation was Public Day. On the day of the field trips, ISSW 2018 invited public groups to the Conference Center to view the posters and hear discussions ending with a buffet and social hour for the public. Numerous school groups visited, as well as many mayors and government officials. 360+ attended the event.
As is becoming the norm, the Proceedings were distributed through a USB key and there was an ISSW 2018 app which had the schedule, papers and essentially filled the roll of a hardcopy proceedings. Everyone was further connected by ISSW 2018 Twitter and Facebook accounts. Conference organizers succeeded in having all of the papers available in the MSU Digital ISSW collection before the Workshop began.
The Wednesday Field day was another sunny, warm fall day. 10 different Field trips were offered including: Ski resort safety management, Water and snow management in modern ski Resorts, multifunctional avalanche mitigation, avalanche control and detection systems, IT networks and decision making in ski resorts, and Transport infrastructure and avalanches.
ISSW 2018 initiated the Young Snow Professional (YSP) award. Young practitioners and researchers (age < 30 years) were asked to submit their contributions. Ten YSP-nominees were selected from around 50 submissions. The three beneficiaries were chosen based submitted abstracts.
A busy Social schedule filled the week. The Sunday night Welcome Party was well attended. Monday was Innsbruck Night featuring Local food and music. Tuesday was Diva’s Night and “after party”. Both were well attended. Wednesday night was free following the Filed Trips. Thursday was the ISSW Banquet in the Crystal Hall of the Conference Center. Rather than a speaker on a specific topic, there was an awards ceremony and special musical entertainment.
The week ended with Fernie Night on Friday. After and initial social hour with refreshments, the Organizers of ISSW 2018 recognized many of the people who contributed to it. Then they passed the stage to the Organizers of ISSW 2020, who gave a short talk and video about Fernie and the next ISSW. It was a good ending to a great week and was attended by several hundred people.
Presenting Sponsors were Gazex and TAS. Supporting sponsors were Arcteryx, Black Diamond, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and Breckenridge Ski Resort. Contributing sponsors were American Avalanche Association, Backcountry Access, Mammut, and Wyssen Avalanche Control AG.